The European Space Agency‘s (ESA) only female astronaut has teamed up with Barbie to send a doll on a zero gravity flight in a bid to inspire young girls to pursue a career in space, as well as sciences, technology, engineering and matematics.
Marking the beginning of World Space Week, Mattel worked alongside Italian astronaut Cristoforetti as she trains for her next mission to the International Space Station next April.
The lookalike doll travelled on a zero gravity flight from the ESA base in Germany.
Zero gravity flights are so often used as simply a means of promotion, but Cristoforetti’s efforts with Mattel seem like a genuine bid to engender excitement among young girls with regards to science.
“The mini Samantha doll has already been on a parabolic flight so she already has some experience with weightlessness,” Cristoforetti, 44, said in a video statement.
“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.”
As part of the project, Barbie is sharing educational resources on space on its website and proceeds from the new Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll, previously a one-of-a-kind toy, will be donated to the Women In Aerospace organisation towards a PhD student bursary.
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Cristoforetti will break new ground next year by becoming the first European to command the International Space Station.
The stunt comes after recent studies have shown women are still underrepresented in STEM careers, despite significant moves to encourage take-up.
The doll will join Cristoforetti when she travels to the International Space Station in 2022, where the Italian astronaut will become its first female European commander.