The International Space Station may be beautiful, but it has tragically been scorned by true interplanetary exploration enthusiasts as a money-sucking boondoggle. This month it enters the final stages of its complex assembly even though it's scheduled to be phased out by 2017 (and presumably allowed to burn up before plummeting into the sea). Nevertheless, the ISS is an absolutely glorious piece of orbital installation art. Peep at an image gallery of this high-tech, zero-grav masterpiece after the jump.

Airy, increasingly symmetrical as additional modules are added, with shimmering golden solar wings, it summarizes four decades of free-world space-age aesthetics. C'mon people, gaze upon its gossamer elegance! If da Vinci had ever seen anything even remotely like it, he would have shit his pants, rapturously. And if you ever pulled up alongside in a Space Shuttle, we wager you would, too. It kicks Skylab's ass and makes Mir look like it was ridden hard and put up wet. Plus it photographs well, from every angle, and against every background. All photos AP/NASA.