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Barbie has had a lot of careers and traveled to a lot of places in her 63-year history, but despite once being an astronaut, she had never actually gone to space. Until now, that is.
To help encourage girls to consider a career in aerospace, engineering and other STEM fields, Mattel partnered with the International Space Station National Lab and has officially sent two Barbie dolls to space, where they’ll stay until this summer.
The two dolls sent to space received a tour of the ISS, which included the Cupola, ISS’s observation module, veggie garden and minus-80 degree laboratory freezer. The dolls also received an introduction to the station’s free-flying robots, the Astrobees.
While it’s Barbie’s first actual trip to space, the iconic toy has been preparing for the journey for a long time. The first space-related Barbie, Miss Astronaut, was released in 1965, four years before the moon landing. That was followed by a second astronaut Barbie in 1985, a space scientist in 2017 and an astrophysicist in 2019.
Barbie has also created dolls modeled after NASA scientist Katherine Johnson and Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space. In 2021, the brand released a Barbie based on Samantha Cristoforetti, a veteran Italian astronaut, and then finally launched the two dolls to space aboard Mission DreamStar.
“Barbie introduced an astronaut doll in 1965 before humans had even stepped foot on the moon,” Lisa McKnight, executive vice president and global head of Barbie and dolls, Mattel, said in a press release. “Now, almost 60 years later and with 200 careers and counting, Barbie dolls have made it to space. It is important that we encourage girls to reach for the stars – literally – and pursue careers in aerospace and STEM. With help from the International Space Station National Lab team, we are reminding girls that not even gravity can hold them back.”
While it’s a first for Barbie, a handful of other toys have already made it to space, including a Slinky, a Yo-Yo and a toy car. Even Buzz Lightyear made it to space in 2008, joining the crew of the STS-124 space shuttle mission.
When the Barbie dolls return from space this summer, they will be donated to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and go on display later this year at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. You can see the pair in action aboard the ISS in this YouTube video from Barbie.
While Barbie finally made the journey to space in 2022, NASA says it will be sending a real woman to the moon for the first time in 2024. In all, a dozen people — all American men — have walked on the moon since 1969, but NASA’s first return to the moon since 1972 will include one man and one woman for a week-long expedition.
It’ll be one small step for women (and girls) and one giant leap for humankind.