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TRENDING SCIENCE: Barbie goes to space to inspire young women

The most iconic doll in the world is trying to get girls more interested in space careers.

Fundamental Research

Manufactured by American toy company Mattel, Inc. over 60 years ago, Barbie has come a long way since her early days as a teen fashion model. Extraordinary women with a doll in their likeness are now widely available.

Barbie doll, we have lift-off

How can we get more girls to become tomorrow’s astronauts, engineers and space scientists? Try putting the Barbie doll version of European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti into space during a zero-gravity flight, that’s how. The astronaut, who is training for her next mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2022, is an exceptional role model. Cristoforetti is the first Italian woman in space, and the only active female astronaut in Europe. She spent 200 days aboard the ISS between 2014 and 2015. Back then, it was the longest time a European had ever spent in space. Cristoforetti is really proud. “I’m very happy that Barbie dolls nowadays reflect not only the body shape of real women, but also the full range of their professional achievements,” she commented in an ESA statement in 2019 when the agency and Mattel, Inc. partnered to create two unique figures, one with a spacewalk suit and the other with a blue flight suit. “I hope this will help girls and boys to imagine their future without being constrained by artificial limits, that have no place in our time.” Thanks to ESA, the two dolls were used by Barbie Mattel Italia to promote their Dream Gap Project. At the heart of the project was new research that showed young girls by the age of five already believed they weren’t fit for certain male-dominated pursuits because of cultural stereotypes and how the media portrayed them. “One of ESA’s goals is to be a source of inspiration for all of Europe’s citizens,” noted Ersilia Vaudo, Chief Diversity Officer for ESA, in the statement. “ESA is proud to be associated with this initiative, fighting stereotypes and encouraging girls and young women to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.” To mark World Space Week (4-10 October) that’s celebrating women in space this year, Cristoforetti’s Barbie doll travelled and floated on a zero-gravity flight from Germany’s ESA base. It emulated how an astronaut prepares before going to space.

Keep reaching for the stars

“The mini Samantha doll has already been on a parabolic flight so she already has some experience with weightlessness,” Cristoforetti told ‘Reuters’. “I really hope that by showing that we can create some excitement for especially young girls ... maybe ... those images will kindle a sparkle of passion in some girl’s heart and that would be incredible.” “Sometimes little things can plant the seeds of great dreams, who knows?” she added on ‘BBC’. “Maybe the fun images of my doll floating in weightlessness will spark children’s imagination and lead them to consider a career in Stem” – that is, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Girls can take the authentically detailed Cristoforetti Barbie home. Proceeds will be donated to Women in Aerospace Europe, a non-profit international organisation based in the Netherlands that inspires the next generation through a bursary.

Keywords

space, Barbie, doll, European Space Agency, Samantha Cristoforetti, girl, woman