European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut and Europe’s first female commander of the International Space Station, Samantha Cristoforetti, has appeared with her Barbie doll onboard the ISS, as part of Barbie and the ESA’s joint mission to inspire girls to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

When the Italian astronaut left for the ISS in April with her international teammates, she packed her “Samantha” Barbie doll, and took off from Earth on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Despite a busy mission of scientific experiments and maintenance that saw her become the first female ESA astronaut to do a “spacewalk” (or EVA) – as well as Europe’s first female commander of the ISS – Cristoforetti took time to answer girls’ questions about space, accompanied by her Barbie doll.

Benefits for science, engineering and education

Josef Aschbacher, the ESA’s director general, said: “ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has a wonderful mission, creating benefits for science, engineering and education. It also helps with the development of our future missions across the solar system.

“As with all our ESA astronauts, I am very proud of her achievements, and when these highlight that both women and men play an equal part in space exploration, this is yet another positive aspect of ESA’s Minerva mission.”

Five children from around Europe were chosen to put their questions to the multilingual astronaut via Inspiring Girls, an international charity founded by Miriam González Durántez that connects girls with a diverse range of female role models, and is a partner of the Barbie Dream Gap Project.

‘Fulfil all their potential’

In the UK, Elisabeth Cabales, aged 10, from Norfolk, asked Samantha about how she looks after her health in space, what kind of food she eats, why she became an astronaut and how she keeps in touch with her children back on Earth.

Durántez said: “At Inspiring Girls International, we connect girls with role models, to show them all the opportunities they have in life and empower them to fulfil all their potential. We are proud and excited to give our girls this fantastic opportunity to ask questions directly to Samantha Cristoforetti about her role at the International Space Station. This inspiring collaboration will help girls discover new opportunities, consider a career in STEM and raise their aspirations.”

Barbie has a long-term collaboration with the ESA, inspiring girls everywhere to see the STEM field as a viable career option. The brand first honoured Samantha Cristoforetti with a one-of-a-kind doll made in her likeness in March 2019, and then later released a version of the doll that went on sale in October 2021, allowing fans to purchase their very own Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie*, with part of the proceeds going to support the charity Women in Aerospace Europe.

Barbie’s role

Barbie’s first Astronaut doll appeared in 1965. Barbie has been an Astrophysicist, Space Scientist and an Astronaut.

Cristoforetti will soon begin her descent to Earth when the Minerva mission draws to a close. Once returned, the Samantha Cristoforetti Barbie doll that has accompanied her on her mission will be displayed at ESA headquarters.
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