February 17, 2010, 10:08 PM — Early this morning, NASA astronauts "raised the curtain" on a set of windows with the best view of the world the International Space Station has to offer.
Astronauts Robert Behnken and Nicholas Patrick spent a good portion of their 5-hour, 48-minute spacewalk setting up a seven-window cupola that will act as a central command post for the space station's robotics work, as well as offer up a stunning view of Earth and work going on outside the orbiter.
During the mission's third and final spacewalk, which last from just before 9 p.m. ET Tuesday until 3:03 a.m. ET today, Behnken and Patrick removed insulation blankets, launch restraint bolts and covers that shielded the windows during launch.
Once the windows were uncovered, space shuttle Endeavour pilot Terry Virts opened the windows from inside the cupola one at a time. The first to get a look at the station's new view, Virts opened and closed each window in turn and then opened them simultaneously, according to NASA.
The cupola, which is designed so astronauts can shutter and unshutter the windows from the inside, will allow astronauts to manipulate the station's robotic arms, while having a much better view of the work they're doing outside the space station.
Mission Specialist Kathryn Hire gave the spacewalkers kudos for "raising the curtain on a bay window to the world."
The cupola, along with the Italian-built node, dubbed Tranquility, both were brought up to the station on board Endeavour.
Aside from working on the cupola's windows, the spacewalking astronauts also continued the setup of the new Tranquility node. The spacewalkers disconnected temporary power cables and opened the second of two ammonia loops to allow coolant to flow through Tranquility. They also installed heater and data cables, along with handrails, to Tranquility.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter@sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.