An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl's 2018 Girl of the Year.
Launching for sale on Monday (Jan. 1), "Luciana Vega" is the latest addition to the popular 18-inch-tall (46 centimeters) doll line aimed at inspiring young girls' sense of spirit and strength of character.
"Luciana is a role model for today's girls, empowering them to defy stereotypes, and embrace risks that will teach them about failure and success as they chart their own course in life, whatever the goal," Katy Dickson, president of American Girl (opens in new tab), said in a statement. "For us, it's all about building girls of strong character." [Meet Luciana Vega, American Girl's Aspiring Astronaut (Photos)]
Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a "distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side." She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.
As first revealed on ABC's Good Morning America, American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA's Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat "loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play."
Luciana "puts her whole heart into making her dreams a reality," said Dickson.
American Girl worked with advisors — including NASA astronaut Megan McArthur Behnken — to ensure authenticity when it came to the doll and her playsets.
"It is so important to find exciting new ways to inspire our next generation of space explorers," said McArthur Behnken in a NASA-released statement. "I always want to encourage girls and boys to pursue their dreams, no matter how big, and I think it helps to show how those dreams can become reality for any kid." [How to Become an Astronaut]
Other members of the advisory board included Ellen Stofan, former NASA Chief Scientist; Deborah Barnhart, the CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama; and Maureen O'Brien, manager of strategic alliances at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
American Girl editors and product designers also visited Space Camp in Huntsville and NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston to learn about the life of a Space Camp trainee, including the "right" way to eat in space. American Girl's partnership with NASA was developed through the Space Act Agreement to inform and inspire the wider public about the excitement of space and STEM careers.
In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana's story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic. The first two books, available now, introduce readers to Luciana, a young girl of Chilean descent, who wins a scholarship to attend Space Camp, advancing her dream of flying to space and landing on Mars. [The Best Space Books for Kids]
"As she ascends from Space Camp kid to youth astronaut trainee, she faces many challenges that test her competitive spirit and self-confidence, and she must find the courage to embrace the unknown with bravery, curiosity, and wonder," stated American Girl in a press release.
American Girl, established by Pleasant Company in 1986 and now a subsidiary of Mattel, has further partnered with Scholastic, NASA and Space Camp to launch "Blast Off to Discovery," an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game. The program will begin Jan. 31 on Scholastic's website (opens in new tab).
In addition, American Girl and Scholastic will host a Mission to Mars sweepstakes, where families can go on a series of weekly missions for a chance to win several prizes, including a grand prize trip to Space Camp. (American Girl is also providing 20 scholarships to Space Camp to be awarded separately.)
The Luciana Vega collection will be available for sale beginning New Year's Day (Jan. 1) through American Girl's catalogue, website and at all American Girl retail locations throughout the United States, as well as at specialty boutiques at select Indigo and Chapters in Canada. The Luciana books will be offered through retail and online booksellers, and select Luciana products will also be available at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center gift shop.
On Jan. 1, American Girl stores in the U.S. will host debut events, where there will be science demonstrations, a Moon Phase craft, galaxy-inspired treats and a free Luciana doll t-shirt to take home. And beginning next summer, a special Girl of the Year experience, created in partnership with Space Camp, will offer girls and their families a chance to train just like astronauts, including riding a Multi-Axis Trainer and designing a robot.
See more photos of American Girl’s new Luciana Vega doll collection at collectSPACE.