An 11-year old girl who has piqued interest in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and wants to be the first person ever to step on Mars is Luciana Vega. Wondering if she is real?
No, she is the newest doll that Nasa helped American Girl develop to inspire the young generation, particularly girls, to dream big and reach for the stars.
"We're proud to introduce fans to American Girl's 2018 Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega — a champion of STEM and a natural-born leader who puts her whole heart into making her dreams a reality," said Katy Dickson, president of American Girl in a statement.
"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."
Luciana, according to the company statement, is of Chilean descent and has the skills and smarts to achieve what she wants. She also knows being a good leader and team player is the very first step toward achieving success. "Luciana's world comes to life via a beautiful 18-inch Lucian doll, featuring warm brown eyes, medium skin, and dark brown hair with a distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side," the statement read.
The doll will be released on 1 January 2018 online as well as at retail stores.
American Girl partnered with Nasa and a panel of scientists and astronauts to develop Luciana's story, spacesuit, flight suit, and a Martian habitat.
The doll makers also said that they used Nasa's content and imagery to build a new American Girl app and educational website that will offer children space simulations, educational quizzes, challenges, and more to keep them interested. They have even planned a Luciana-themed summer space camp where girls and their families can train just like astronauts, doing things like taking a tumble spin in the Multi-Axis Trainer or designing a robot.
"It is so important to find exciting new ways to inspire our next generation of space explorers," said Megan McArthur, Nasa astronaut who worked on the project. "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."
Though Luciana isn't the first character to encourage kids towards astronautics and science, it does come at a pretty crucial time when Nasa is gearing up for missions to Mars and beyond in the coming years, the American space body said in a news release. "Nasa will need talented scientists, engineers, and astronauts in the future as the agency returns to the Moon and paves the way for human exploration deeper into the solar system, including Mars," it noted.