Wandering about in the aisles of the gift shop at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry a few days ago, one particular toy caught my eye. There, in the middle of the space-themed toy aisle, was a Barbie doll all kitted out in a space suit with bright pink highlights. Little did I realize I had just caught a glimpse of the latest Barbie doll in the wild.
The $12.99 Mars Explorer Barbie is part of the "Career of the Year" line. The doll was created in collaboration with NASA, though I doubt the space agency is planning eye-searing pink accents for its space suits anytime soon. The doll's release is timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Mars Curiosity rover arriving on the Red Planet.
It's unclear what NASA contributed to the creation of this doll. She sports a fashion-forward pink bubble helmet and an air tank backpack. However, the thin materials don't look particularly space-worthy. She's going to need some more serious gear if she's really going to land on Mars and survive.
The marketing materials are at least headed in the right direction. "Girls of today can be the Mars explorers of tomorrow," reads an advertisement. Perhaps, 20 years from now, an interview with a Mars-bound woman will include her reminiscing about how her Mars Explorer Barbie doll inspired her to become an astronaut. Or maybe that's a little farfetched.
It feels strange to look to Barbie as an astronaut role model, but I would take a Mars Explorer Barbie over a Fashionista Barbie any day.