Home Sweet Home in Orbit

From afar, the International Space Station might look like a gangling machine, or like robot butterflies mating, but inside it is a cradle of humanity. Over the last 20 years, 141 people from 19 countries have worked, played with their food, grumbled about the toilet, drawn blood, space-walked and gazed up and down at the universe, and at Earth.

In the process they have thronged their high-tech surroundings with gear, including laptops and cameras, and plastered the walls with mission stickers and photographs of friends, loved ones and heroes of the space age such as Yuri Gagarin. Toys, stuffed animals and even orderly graffiti — the signatures of crew members and visitors — abound.

All this and more is documented in “Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station,” by Roland Miller and Paolo Nespoli. The result is a high-tech tour of a high-tech home in the sky; to an astronaut it must look almost cozy.

Over two decades, an international community has sprung up, of people who have been to space, have lived in space or expect to live in space, people so enthusiastic that some, like Charles Simonyi, the Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist, have paid millions of dollars to go and, in his case, go again.

Quietly, these astronauts and other offworld tourists have created a style for future space exploration — best practices for living and communing in space with grace and dignity. In a tradition passed down from the days of Mir, the Soviet Union’s final orbital outpost, new arrivals to the station are offered bread and salt. In “Interior Space,” Mr. Nespoli, a veteran Italian astronaut, recalls his shipmate Cady Coleman playing her flute in the station’s cupola, a windowed dome that offers spectacular views of Earth, and hearing her music float through the corridors.

The photographs shown here are the result of an unusual collaboration between Mr. Miller, a photographer, and Mr. Nespoli, who at the time was flying his last mission on the space station, in 2017. “To our knowledge, this is the first collaboration at this level between a visual artist on Earth and an astronaut in space,” Mr. Miller said in an email.

Earthbound, Mr. Miller scoured Google for images of the space station and potential scenes he wanted captured, and emailed them to Mr. Nespoli. Mr. Nespoli took the shots and emailed them back to Mr. Miller, who critiqued them.

“I think the most surprising thing for me was how much the photographs Paolo made looked and felt like my work,” he said.

Mr. Nespoli, in his own email, said: “The basic structure of the I.S.S. is fairly stable and it’s represented decently in Google Street View. What is missing there, though, are the signs of the human presence.” He added, “I paid a lot of attention to the details of the environment, making sure that the possible sterile appearance of the I.S.S. was moderated by the little details of human presence that made this science lab feel like a home.”

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