Watch Barbie float with NASA astronauts in space
Barbie has come a long, long way from the days when she lamented that “math class is hard.”
She’s a savant in calculus, now that she’s added astrophysicist to his career list. And she just took one really small step for dollkind. Two Barbies took off on a Northrop Grumman’s Swan spaceflight from Wallops Island, Va., on February 19. Now they are residents of the International Space Station, marking the first time in Barbie history that the doll has literally traveled into space.
It may come as a surprise to rabid collectors who know Barbie has had “astronaut” on her resume since 1965 – four years prior. Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Wear a Mercury Inspired Mod silver spacesuit and even sporting a bubble hairstyle reminiscent of a helmet, “Miss Astronaut” beat NASA in the race for representation in space, giving the girls an early role model in aviation and aeronautics.
But it took another 57 years for Barbie to do more than just look the part.
“The idea of sending Barbie to the International Space Station is one that we’ve been tossing around for a while,” Lisa McKnight, who leads the Barbie brand for Mattel, told Mashable.
She’s a Barbie girl, in a new world
Barbie has been an astronaut since 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.
Credit: Photo by Keystone-FranceGamma-Rapho via Getty Images
The space travel moment coincides with the company’s latest astronaut-related Barbie products, the Space Discovery Line at Target, McKnight said.
Crew members hauled the 11.5-inch dolls out of the freighter shortly after it docked at the station more than 200 miles above Earth. In project dream star, the astronauts took photos and videos of two Barbies – one black and one white – at various facilities on the ISS. Digital media is used for a Barbie series on YouTube to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
During one video, the Barbies are seen in the microgravity environment, floating freely in Russian Sokol-style space suits, the glass cupola framing the Earth and starry vistas behind them.
Technically, this isn’t the first time a Barbie has experienced weightlessness. Last year, a special edition Barbie, sculpted to look like European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, rode a zero-g parabolic airplane flight. At first, Mattel didn’t make the doll for the general public, but the toymaker eventually put it into mass production. Part of the proceeds from its sales is donated to a Women in Aerospace Europe fund.
Cristoforetti should return to the space station any day on a SpaceX Crew Dragon flight.
“I’m thrilled that Barbie dolls today not only reflect the body shapes of real women, but also the full range of their professional accomplishments,” she said. in a report by ESA last year. “I hope this will help girls and boys to imagine their future without being constrained by artificial boundaries that have no place in our time.”
Part of the proceeds from sales of Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie are donated to a Women in Aerospace Europe fund.
Credit: European Space Agency
“Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine you’re in space,” a Barbie voice actor says. “What would it be like to have your arms and hair weightless? To have objects floating and moving slowly and silently in front of you?
Although space tourists these days have paid over $55 million for a chance to reach low Earth orbit, Barbie’s ride was considerably cheaper. Mattel was not charged for the flight, photo shoot and crew time, said ISS National Laboratory spokesman Patrick O’Neill.
Mattel responded to a ISS National Laboratory Education Research Announcement in 2021, soliciting ideas for space-themed digital programming for K-12 students. The toy company did not apply for any grants for this opportunity. Barbie’s journey is part of the lab’s mission to – among other things – “inspire the next generation of researchers and explorers,” O’Neill said.
“Launch and crew costs are not passed on to the search teams and are borne by the US taxpayer,” he wrote in an email.
Since arriving on board, Barbie has not conducted any experiments or become a mascot of the space station, walking around in its modules. (We asked.) The dolls are already in storage and will return to Earth later this summer, according to NASA.
Look, no strings! The Barbies float in the unique microgravity environment of the International Space Station.
Upon their return, they will be displayed at the Udvar Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum in Virginia, where his predecessor, Miss Astronautlives on since Mattel donated it to the collection in 1995.
For over five decades, Barbie has had a unique relationship with space. Although she has traveled to many places in the world and worn many hats – literally and figuratively – space is a theme the doll keeps revisiting. McKnight attributes this to the vision of Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, who wanted the doll to reflect culture and femininity at a time when most other doll options on store shelves were related to babies and cooking. .
“People were fascinated with space travel because it was a big part of the cultural conversation throughout the 50s and 60s,” McKnight said. “Barbie was there to inspire girls that they could be anything back in the 60s, when it was rare for girls to pursue careers in STEM.”
For over five decades, Barbie has had a unique relationship with space.
“Barbie was there to inspire girls that they could be anything back in the 60s, when it was rare for girls to pursue careers in STEM.”
The company offers around 10 examples of space-related Barbies sold over the years, including Barbie Space Scientist in 1998 and 2017. But a quick eBay and Amazon research shows many more, such as Space Camp Barbie, NASA Crew Barbie, and 25th Anniversary Astronaut Barbie.
Sometimes the product is designed to provide realism, as with the Katherine Johnson Dolla rendering of NASA’s famous human computer, created shortly after the film hidden numbers told his story. The same goes for the likeness of Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2012. The company said it consulted with NASA and Ride’s partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. for dress the doll in a Challenger-inspired flight suit.
Other times, Barbie’s appearance wasn’t ready for flight. Case in point: a space-themed Barbie from 1985, made with a metallic fuchsia bodysuit and puff sleeves to rival Princess Di’s wedding dress.
Some of Barbie’s space sets weren’t ready for spaceflight.
Credit: Photo by Christoph Schmidt/picture alliance via Getty Images
“Our designers often take inspiration from official gear and apparel, then add touches that will resonate with kids, like pops of pink or standout boots,” McKnight said. “The 1986 Astronaut Barbie was more rooted in fantasy.”
Today, the Barbie brand is still trying to stay ahead of the competition in the space race. In 2013, the doll beat all nations on a quest to the red planet when she made Mars Explorer Barbie. Hopefully, NASA will get there in the late 2030s.
Of course, it’s one thing for her to dress for whatever Martian job she wants. But when can we expect it to go interplanetary?
“Barbie’s career path in space exploration continues to grow out of this world,” McKnight said.