Humanity’s most expensive single object floats 248 miles above the Earth. It’s the $100 billion International Space Station, which houses six astronauts in a modular set of pressurized tubes that span the footprint of one and a half 747 jets.
Chances are, you and I will never be so lucky as to visit the ISS. And typical photographs don’t convey the reality of life inside the cramped space. But thanks to the latest Google Maps Street View project, we can visit it through our browsers–in what Google has cheekily named its Outer Space View.
Just like Street View, you simply tap where you’d like to go. However, let’s just say the effect works better in space. While we’ve seen dozens of photos and videos from ISS, the Street View approach works extraordinarily well for this subject. You’ll feel like an astronaut launching through porthole doors in zero gravity, appreciating the paradoxical architecture: cavernous claustrophobia.
The ISS is a cozy space for sure, with living quarters that resemble plush armoires, and a bathroom with a glorified shower curtain for a door. But every surface is usable. There is often no discernible ceiling or floor. Instead, you’ll see a seamless continuum of more buttons, wires, and doors to explore.
To celebrate the new project, Google produced an 18-minute making-of video. It isn’t just marketing fluff, either–it’s a reminder that though consuming media is easier than ever, producing it can still take months and months of planning.
Street View cars don’t go into space, obviously, and all materials for the shoot had to be readily available on the ISS. The Google Street View team developed a special shooting methodology by walking through a full-scale ISS model on the ground, with input from NASA’s astronauts. Without tripods or jib arms to stabilize 360-degrees of shooting, the team devised an approach to film Street-View-style by using simple bungee cords.
Spoiler: It worked. And as a result, we can all take a tour of ISS, no PhD in astrophysics required.