The biggest window in space
The astronauts that work in the International Space Station (ISS) are about to get an office with a view. The Tranquility node is slated to be added to the space station in early 2010 and serve as a workstation for the crew during spacewalks and also give a place for the astronauts to unwind.
On the top of the 'Tranquility' node will be what is called the Cupola which is named after the observation deck on a railroad caboose. It is designed with windows that will give a 360 degree view of space as well as the ISS itself. The crew of the ISS will be able to control the space station's robotic arm and allow the astronauts a live view of what they are doing.
The other purpose: To give the crew a place to relax and gaze at the Earth and soak up the view from space. Scientists also hope that photographs of the Earth from the Cupola will give them a view of the Earth that you simply can't get from satellites. The hope is that taking photos of the Earth from different light angles from the sun will give some insight into dust storms, hurricanes and the process of melting icebergs.
Right now the 'Tranquility' node is set to be launched with Space Shuttle Endeavour in February 2010 and NASA hopes to have the Cupola integrated into the cargo bay by the end of the year.