Room with a view

by Andrew Chaikin on September 29, 2010

Steve Robinson ISS cupola

I envy Steve Robinson. Not just because he’s an astronaut who’s flown in space and even walked in space, but because, as a fellow guitar player, I really wish I could try out his practice room. Last Feburary on the STS-130 mission, Robinson helped install the International Space Station’s “room with a view,” called the cupola. Recently I had a chance to ask Robinson what it was like in there, and he surprised me by saying that visually it was even more impressive than walking in space. The reason, he said, is that you have much more peripheral vision through the cupola’s “bay windows” than you do in a space helmet. And he pointed out that since our eyes’ motion-sensing receptors, the rods, are concentrated around the edges of our field of view, the cupola’s wide-screen panorama creates a more pronounced feeling of motion over the Earth than you get during a space walk. Even without a guitar, the cupola is an incredible place to be. And the only thing that would make it better, for me, would be the chance to make a bit of music while watching the Earth go by.

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