Let's take a fascinating video tour of the International Space Station (ISS), where we float in microgravity from the Soyuz on one end all the way to the Space Shuttle on the other. As you can see, it really is a series of tubes, and my, hasn't this thing gotten huge?
We especially like the sign that reads, "Speed Limit 17,500 mph." The number of astronauts on board while this video was shot was remarkable, where it looked like a large, congenial and social group (in fact, there are 11 astronauts in space right now, five on the ISS and six aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor). We were thinking life on the space station was more solitary and lonely than this. Now we really want to go into space.
As soon as that Cupola with its expansive picture window is added in the next few days, the space station will be well on its way toward its completion by 2011. The latest estimates have it in operation until at least 2015, and maybe even to 2020. We're finding it hard to believe that eventually all this spectacular technology will have to "deorbit" (crash into the Earth or burn up in its atmosphere).