Welcome to Space

To see far is one thing, going there is another.

At the height of the Space Age, President Reagan directed in his 1984 State of the Union address, NASA to build a “permanently manned” space station. Embarking on this mission, Skylab became the only space station operated exclusively by the United States. Shifting focus from competition to cooperation, the United States and NASA are extending unprecedented scientific and engineering collaboration with the Soviet Union. The journey that unfolds sets a precedent for future cooperative projects in space and becomes a remarkable quest to build the largest multi-national, artificial object in space with the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit. This is the story of the human space journeys that led to the construction of the International Space Station.

Crafted entirely from more than 1,000 hours of audio recordings, archival footage, and analog photographs from the NASA archives, the film takes us straight to the pivotal events of America’s space station journey exactly as they happened. Immersed in the perspectives of the still photographs elaborately choreographed into 3D scenes, the memorable missions are experienced vividly, as a cinematic experience. The use of elements like split screens and title sequences designed with mysterious volumetric lights establish the identity of each historic milestone, making it feel like a captivating new journey. The film conveys a sense of unlimited possibility with the world viewed from space as a single nation and emphasizing international cooperation.

“Welcome to Space” is a celebration of space exploration, a tribute to our history and future in space, beautifully chronicling NASA’s space efforts to create the Skylab program, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the Space Shuttle orbiter program, and the International Space Station.

I started out with a research and editing exercise trying to find the best historical materials in the archives of NASA. The archival materials I had found — film, photography, and audio recordings, had different formats and resolutions, creating an opportunity to curate and re-imagine these historical moments into individual moving parts that could tell the story of our journeys to space.

I wanted to utilize as much as possible historical photography, firstly — because of its beautiful analog quality, and secondly — because I wanted the film to feel immersive and accentuate multiple perspectives. Using a virtual camera was one of the only real ways that could bring to life the historical photographs NASA has scattered across different time periods, and keep it feeling organic as a motion picture. There are over 40 photographs that had been animated into 3D to allow the audience to discover new glimpses in high-definition about these historic milestones.

I wanted to take the film somewhere where it would fascinate the viewer to discover things moving into what once was just a still photograph — to feel surreal, to have a “you-are-there” feeling. Scanning the room inside the mission control center or seeing the light reflect onto the astronaut’s extravehicular suit, offers a wider perspective of the possibilities of analog photography when converted to a 3D scene, one where we can pick out our own details about the story.

The film covers several tracks of historical audio, including voices from the Houston Mission Control Center, the astronaut’s voices from space, commentary from interviews and news reports, as well as the voice of President Ford and Reagan, which have been re-mastered and placed into the context of each mission. The voices speak to the present without looking back, but describe how each mission is going to be. Although it feels like we’re watching history, the feeling is like we’re just discovering the story.

I designed the overall aesthetic of the film — the leitmotif of the analog film frame, the split screens, title sequences, and volumetric lights, to compliment the sense of the age of the archival sources, but with much more resolution and detail, in an attempt to create a striking new look. As we approach the present time, the scenes become more hyper-real, exuding the state-of-the-art looks of today. Chapter by chapter, we discover the story of the intricate process by which the space station became a reality.

NASA CineSpace 2022 – Official Film Selection

“Welcome to Space” premiered at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival (the Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts) as part of the NASA CineSpace 2022 programming on November 13th, 2022. Subsequent screenings at the Space Center Houston and Cinema Columbus Film Festival.




Gabriela Iancu


Graphic Design
Motion Design
Sound Design
Archival Research