Barbie defies gravity: iconic doll enjoys “space” flight to encourage girls into STEM careers

Mattel’s Barbie is partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) and its only active European female astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti to celebrate ‘Women in Space’ and inspire girls everywhere to see the STEM field as a viable career option. The collaboration sees Samantha’s doll sent on a Zero-G flight and educational resources on space made available to parents and teachers. Part of the proceeds from sales of the Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll, previously a one-of-a-kind Barbie but now available across Europe, will be donated to Women In Aerospace to inspire the next generation by creating a Barbie bursary for a PHD student.

To celebrate World Space Week (4-10 October), the Samantha lookalike doll departed from the ESA base in Germany and travelled on a zero-gravity flight, modelling the preparation and experience of a real-life astronaut.

Samantha Cristoforetti, 44, is an aviator, engineer and astronaut and is currently in training ahead of her next mission to the International Space Station in April 2022. During her six-month tour of duty, she will take on the role of Commander and plans to take her doll on the mission with her to continue inspiring girls. “Sometimes little things can plant the seeds of great dreams,” she says. “Who knows? Maybe the fun images of my doll floating in weightlessness will spark children’s imagination and lead them to consider a career in STEM.”

Barbie has spent over 55 years inspiring girls through space careers, since its first Barbie Astronaut doll ‘walked on the moon’ before man ever did, in 1965. Barbie has been an Astrophysicist, Space Scientist and an Astronaut, and dolls have been created in the likeness of real-life role models: astronauts Sally Ride from the USA, Anna Kikina from Russia and, of course, ESA’s Samantha Cristoforetti.

Barbie Spokesperson Isabel Ferrer, Barbie Marketing Director EMEA, says, “With STEM careers still underrepresented by women, Barbie is using its platform this World Space Week to show girls exciting and diverse roles and activity in space for them to explore their limitless potential.”

The Barbie/ESA partnership was forged after research in the UK conducted in 2019 showed four out of 10 parents believed they may be holding their daughter back from entering or learning about this type of career, due to their own lack of wisdom in this area. A third did not believe there are enough positive role models in space and STEM-related fields for girls, and 70 per cent agreed that achievements of females in space needed to be given more of an equal footing to those of their male counterparts.

ESA is not involved in the manufacturing and commercialisation of this product. Neither ESA nor Samantha Cristoforetti receive any royalties from the sale of this product.

About Tessa Clayton

A former Chief Sub of Red magazine, Tessa Clayton is the Digital Editor of Licensing.biz and ToyNews. As a freelance journalist she specialised in writing about parenting and family life, and has contributed to a wide variety of publications and websites including Tesco online, Mother & Baby, Livingetc, Junior, Boots Health & Beauty, Practical Parenting and babycentre.co.uk. Get in touch at tessa.clayton@biz-media.co.uk

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