Deputy Editor Lisa Ahern discusses the significance of Barbie going up in space.


The Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforettie makes history by bringing the Barbie doll, which was made to resemble the Commander, in orbit with her in the International Space Station(ISS). Samantha Cristoforettie is the first Female European Commander of the ISS and departed earth with the barbie doll on 27th of April 2022. Samantha had a lengthy career beginning with graduating from secondary education from Liceo Scientifico and proceeding to do a masters in mechanical engineering in Technical University of Munich with specialisations in aerospace propulsion and  lightweight structure. After her university education she began serving as an Italian Air Force Pilot in 2001 as an officer candidate. She was in the Air Force until she was selected as an European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut in May 2009. In 2015 Critoforettie was honoured with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian republic, presented to her by the Italian President.  It is evident from her career Cristoforetti is a high achieving woman which makes it only right to make her role model for young girls.


Martell did just that by constructing a Barbie that was modelled off Cristoforetti back in 2019. They worked with ESA to create this role model that encouraged young girls to strive to study STEM subjects in the future. Their goal is to incite a whole new generation of female engineers, scientists and astronauts. Copies of this  Barbie became available for the public in 2021. Part of the proceeds of the doll’s sales is to go to support the charity Woman in Aerospace Europe. WAE is a non-for-profit organisation committed to promoting female talent and leadership within every aspect of the European Aerospace sector. They have a vision to create a successful European Aerospace sector with inclusive representation at all levels.


In April 2022 when setting off on her mission With SpaceX Crew DragonFreedom, Cristoforettie brought the Barbie that resembled her to the ISS. Aswell as bringing the doll up to space, Cristoforettie made a few milestones along the way. During her time on board she became the first European Woman to carry out her first space walk as well as the first female European commander of the ISS. While on board she also carried out these interviews from girls ranging from the age of 9-12 who video chatted with her from Earth. They were asking Cristoforettie all sorts of questions regarding her career. This interview was then uploaded as a video of the Commander floating around with her lookalike barbie answering the questions from the young girls. When asked about why she became an astronaut Cristoforettie replied Growing up I was fascinated by the night sky, and the idea of flying to space, and the sense of adventure and exploration”. When she found an interest in science and engineering she fused her sense of adventure with these skills and the rest is history. 


The Barbie and the interviews both assist in the goal for  young girls to see first hand a woman with a high ranking role involving science. She is also encouraging young girls that it is you can both play with dolls as well as being interested in science and space. She is showing that it is possible for women to be represented in Aerospace and maybe one of those girls asking her questions will become a future Commander of the ISS. Cristoforettie returned back to Earth on the 14th of October 2022 and the doll that made orbit will now be put on display at the ESA headquarters.


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