Barbie Dolls That Traveled to Space Are Now on Exhibit at the Smithsonian

This Barbie is an astronaut. This Barbie is a scientist. This Barbie is a Smithsonian star. “Barbie goes to space” is a story which began in 1965, when Miss Astronaut debuted. This earliest space Barbie was actually a space outfit to be added to existing dolls, but it was remarkably timely—released only two years after the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. Almost 70 years later, Barbie is still exploring the final frontier, this time in plastic person. Now on view at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum are two Barbies that actually went to space on Mission DreamStar, a joint endeavor with Mattel and NASA to promote girls in STEM.

Barbie had to prepare to go to space for real. Each of the two dolls was dressed in a Soyuz-inspired cosmonaut suit, no accessories allowed. Their hair was cut short and glued down. The dolls explored the International Space Station, including the veggie garden, the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory Freezer, and the Cupola window (an observational module with great videos). After months spent orbiting the earth, the dolls have returned to plastic paradise. The two space voyagers are now displayed alongside the 1965 Miss Astronaut suit and two other space Barbies. Most conspicuous is perhaps the astronaut Barbie of the 1980s, who rather than from work to evening was ready to go from club to space. In fact, Barbie has been a consistent space traveler in the imaginations of Mattel and young children, predating the first American woman in space and long challenging stereotypes of women in science.

With the release of Barbie, the movie, the pink-clad blonde is now everywhere. But Barbie is so much more than an all-American blonde. She's been brunette and sported an afro, she's used a wheelchair and has down syndrome. The representation hasn't always been well-executed, but Barbie is clearly much more than a doll. Her history is rich and varied, but she is perhaps best known for having almost every career in the book. Many of these make-believe exploits took place long before women were regulars in medicine, veterinary science, politics, or the workplace in general. Her career is more than just make-believe, though. Barbie dolls helped in the research conducted by European scientists on zero-gravity parabolic flights. She, like other dolls, teach children empathy. That Barbie in the Smithsonian didn't just go to space, she's been exploring new frontiers for decades.

Barbie has been to space, and returned to tell the tale at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.


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Miss Astronaut, the first Barbie to “go to space,” adventured in 1965, only two years after the first real woman catapulted into space.

h/t: [DesignTaxi]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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