HOUSTON — The countdown is over... Luciana Vega has blasted off.
American Girl launched sales of its new 2018 "Girl of the Year," aspiring astronaut Luciana Vega, on Monday (Jan. 1). The 18-inch-tall (46-centimeter) doll debuted on the company's website and at its stores located across the United States.
"I think it's going to be a wonderful day. Kids are going to be really excited to meet Luciana and see her [Mars] habitat for sure," said Penny Amaya, manager for the American Girl store in Houston, soon after opening the doors to a line of about 150 people. "We knew the kids in Houston were going to be really excited." [Gallery: Luciana Vega Lands at Houston American Girl Store]
As she is described in her accompanying books, Luciana Vega is an 11-year-old of Chilean descent who won a scholarship to Space Camp and dreams of being the first person to fly to Mars. Her story, overall design and accessories were designed with the advice of a NASA astronaut and the director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, home to U.S. Space Camp.
"[American Girl representatives] has been going to Johnson Space Center for a while," Amaya told collectSPACE.com. "Hearing that the space program is going to be ramping up a bit more is very exciting for kids, and hopefully that will continue to grow that interest that we want young ladies to have in space and science."
"I like that she's different from any other girl and she's really cool how she goes in space," said Katherine, one of the young girls taking home her own Luciana Vega. Like the doll, she said she wants to be an astronaut, too. "I love science! It is really cool."
Announced by American Girl on Thursday (Dec. 28), Luciana Vega comes with a nebula-pattern dress and silver iridescent shoes. Her dark brown hair has a streak of purple, representing her creativity.
In addition to the doll, which costs $115, American Girl is also offering other outfits for Luciana to wear, including a Space Camp blue flight suit ($28) and a spacesuit ($75) modeled after the type used by astronauts on board the International Space Station. The latter requires a free membership to American Girl's rewards program to purchase.
Playsets, including a "Maker Station" ($100), with a robotic arm and Mars rover, and a Mars Habitat ($350), with a science glovebox, a plant growth chamber and a selection of space food, are also now available. The Mars Habitat also features a communications station that features images and the voice of real NASA astronaut Megan McArthur Behnken.
Other products include a doll-sized telescope ($40), a robotic dog ($35) and a set of scaled-down space museum souvenirs ($20), including a mini passport booklet like the type distributed at NASA visitor centers since 2013. American Girl also has girl-sized versions of the dress ($48) and backpack ($28) that Luciana wears.
As a "Girl of the Year," Luciana and her accessories will only be available in 2018.
Beginning with the debut events on Monday and continuing throughout the year, American Girl plans a number of activities to complement the Luciana collection. The Mattel-owned doll company has partnered with NASA, Scholastic and Space Camp to produce an educational program for classrooms, "Blast Off to Discovery," beginning on Jan. 31, and in the summer American Girl and Space Camp will host Girl of the Year experiences to offer girls and their families the chance to train just like astronauts.
American Girl and Scholastic will also host a "Mission to Mars" sweepstakes, with the grand prize being a trip to Space Camp.
See more of American Girl's aspiring astronaut Luciana Vega launch at collectSPACE.