The way that astronaut Anousheh Ansari talks about space is similar to how some people talk about reading a book or watching a movie: It's a welcome distraction from the earthly world.
"When the revolution happened back in Iran, the world around me started falling apart," Ansari says in Dot of Light, a new film created by 25-year-old director Eliza McNitt. "Everything started changing. Everything was in chaos — gunshots, explosions. When I would go and look at the night skies, it was like an escape from reality. I would go to another place, another world."
Ansari eventually did go to that other place, becoming the first astronaut of Iranian descent and the first female private space explorer in September 2006. She's one of three female astronauts whom McNitt singled out for her short film, and whom Google, which collaborated on the film, is honoring today, National Space Day. The other two women are Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, and Nicole Stott, whose NASA career lasted 27 years.
Dot of Light was partially shot on Google's Pixel phone and, as an extension of the film, Google is releasing nine exclusive live cases. Each $40 case is inspired by missions taken by female astronauts and, when put on a Nexus or Pixel, gives users access to related art and phone backgrounds. The cases depict shuttles, spacewalks, and what McNitt describes as "dreams beyond the stars," a series of epic images taken by the Hubble Telescope.
While McNitt says that she wanted to include record-breaker Peggy Whitson in the film, Whitson was in space — where she still is — during the shoot. The importance of singling out women, in particular, to celebrate this year's National Space Day is not lost on McNitt.
"More and more I come across young girls posting videos on YouTube about how they are going to be the first humans to step on Mars," she says. "I imagine a woman will take the first step on Mars and proclaim that is 'one giant leap for humankind.'"