View to a thrill from the space station
Published 18/02/2010 | 05:00
In a dramatic grand finale to their mission, astronauts opened the shutters on the International Space Station's new observation deck and were humbled by "absolutely spectacular" views of Earth.
The $27m look-out opened each of its seven eyes one window at a time as the crews of the station and shuttle Endeavour carried out their third and final spacewalk.
It was the moment everyone had been waiting for: the round central window -- the largest ever flown in space -- was the first exposed as astronauts inside cranked open the shutter as they sailed 220 miles (350kms) above the South Pacific.
"As expected, the view is absolutely spectacular," space station commander Jeffrey Williams said. "When we have the others around it open, it will give us a view of the entire globe. Absolutely incredible."
Mission Control set the night's mood by beaming up a recording of Jimmy Buffett's 'Window on the World'.
"I don't think space station's ever going to be the same after this," Mission Control said in a congratulatory call.
The astronauts closed the round shutter covering the window after three minutes to test the mechanisms. They repeated the process until all the windows were checked, opening the last two as the linked shuttle and space station flew above France and Greece.
Our picture shows NASA astronaut Nicholas Patrick holding on to the International Space Station's new cupola, with Earth in the background.