The International Space Station (ISS) may be the greatest machine you never gave a thought to. It’s 354 ft. (108 m) long, 240 ft (73 m) wide and with its vast array of solar panels would almost perfectly cover the rectangle of a football field. That’s a sweet hunk of hardware, even if its $100 billion price tag and its dubious record of scientific accomplishments have caused a lot of detractors to argue it never should have been built.
Still, built it was and it’s been sailing silently and grandly overhead at a speed of 17,500 mph (28,200 k/h) and an average altitude of 250 mi. (400 km) since its first module was launched in 1998. The view from that rarefied high ground is something spectacular, especially after the installation of the seven-windowed node known as the cupola in 2010. What follows is just a small sampling of what orbiting astronauts see every day.