Artist Shooting for the Stars

As an official portrait artist for NASA, Barbara Ernst Prey has paid tribute to the space shuttle Columbia, traveled to the Mojave Desert to capture the X-43 in flight and constructed her own model of a space station that wasn’t built yet, the better to imagine what it would look like.

On Wednesday, Ms. Prey will sit in the V.I.P section in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to watch the launching of the shuttle Discovery and plan how to immortalize it in a medium that is very much earthbound.

“I’m a watercolorist, and doing dark skies is a challenge,” she said.

Ms. Prey, who grew up in Manhasset and now lives in Oyster Bay, was commissioned in 2003 to paint the official Christmas card for the White House.  She is also a participant in the State Department’s Arts in Embassies program and has works hanging in embassies in Oslo, Prague and Paris.

Still, “painting the universe is so different,” she said.  “It stretches you as an artist.  I get to work with brilliant people who are doing amazing things.  Putting people into space is awe-inspiring.’