Nasreen Alkhateeb, 35, is a transmedia artist and producer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is NASA’s cinematographer of the year for 2016. She lives in Washington.
At Goddard, they have their own television studio. There are about 25 producers there. This particular mission, my job was to expose NASA content to a non-science audience.
I was able to accompany NASA’s IceBridge Mission and document—
IceBridge is a mission that goes out twice a year to the Arctic and Antarctic. They measure the ice from the sky. These are really intense missions. Sometimes they’re in the air between 8 and 15 hours straight, never landing.
Also up in the air. I was there soaking in what it was like to be up there with them. The start of their day ‘til the very end.
Ten days. To the Arctic. Greenland. I’d never worked in an environment that was so foreign. So desolate and so extreme in temperature. My camera equipment didn’t work the way it does here. One night the aurora borealis showed up, and everyone was rushing outside, and I got my camera and ran outside. I started to change my [camera’s] F-stop and shutter speed, and about 90 seconds in my fingers started to slow down.
I am not. I’m the only one on the [Goddard production studio] team with a fine art background. I’m kind of like a one-off.
Other producers that had documented IceBridge prior years spent a lot of time on the science and interviewing people and talking heads. I went a totally different direction. It was just immersing audiences in the environment of what it’s like to work there. While I was there I realized this is probably the closest to Mars I’ll ever get. To a foreign planet. And the people who make it here are few and far between. So I can share this.
I did special effects makeup for “The Walking Dead.” They came to D.C. to do a promo for the show: zombies taking over D.C. and protesting in front of the White House. And more recently I’ve been a producer and storyteller on JWST, which is the largest NASA mission right now.
The James Webb Space Telescope, sort of the next-generation Hubble. Right now all 18 segments of the primary mirror have been installed, and it’s halfway there. It’s the largest clean room in the world. People wear bunny suits.
A bunny suit. There are no bunny ears, but they’re all white. We can’t even wear makeup when we’re in there, even under the suit. We’re the most toxic things in the room. This is a highly clean, pristine environment. Sometimes we’re in there for an hour, and sometimes we’re in there nine hours straight.
No. When they’re in a flow you just have to keep going.