ESA has released an interactive panorama that allows the earthbound to take in the interior of the International Space Station (ISS). This first offering allows users to pan around and explore the Columbus space laboratory, which is the agency's single biggest contribution to the ISS and became a permanent fixture in 2008 after being delivered by the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The ISS stands as mankind's most distant outpost, and a testament to its thirst for scientific knowledge. Yet, despite its importance, only a chosen few will have the privilege of seeing it in person. ESA hopes to remedy this by eventually imagining each of the station's modules and allowing anyone with a computer to take a virtual tour of the marvel of modern engineering and technology. While the images are unable to convey any sense of weightlessness, they do give an idea of the cramped conditions aboard the ISS.

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is responsible for the images of the Columbus module, which boasts 75 cubic metres (2,649 cu ft) of space and contains an entire suite of research equipment. Roughly 14 fisheye photos were stitched together to form each section of the station. Having spent 199 days in orbit, Cristoforetti is due to return to Earth today in a Soyuz spacecraft with NASA astronaut Terry Virts and cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.

The interactive panorama is available via the source link below.

Source: ESA