This 11-year-old on a mission to Mars is 2018’s ‘American Girl of the Year’

On January 1, the doll company American Girl will release its newest “Girl of the Year,” an 11-year-old Chilean girl named Luciana Vega, who dreams of being the first person to set foot on Mars. The 18-inch-tall doll is the newest addition to the line of collectibles, and she comes with her own authentic NASA spacesuit and other accessories.

The Girl of the Year dolls are a wildly popular series aimed at preteen girls, and the 2018 version may be the most sought-after yet. American Girl has been releasing dolls with elaborate backstories since 1986, and it began the “Girl of the Year” series in 2001. In a statement announcing the release, American Girl said the dolls are meant to be inspiring characters that motivate tomorrow’s leaders.

“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,” said company president Katy Dickson.

The new doll was revealed on Good Morning America to a horde of excited girls clad in Space Camp jumpsuits. “Luciana is our first character that’s really immersed in STEM,” said designer Rebecca Dekuiper. “We’ve had STEM products before, but we really wanted to do a whole character to show girls that STEM is cool.”

American Girl got a big boost from NASA for its latest creation as well. A four-member advisory board, including astronaut Dr. Megan McArthur Behnken, assisted with the development process. She hopes the doll will help inspire young women to pursue STEM careers.

“I was able to follow Lucy through all of her story and adventures, and provide feedback from an astronaut’s perspective on the authenticity of her story and the activities that she participated in,” Behnken said. “I’ve been in space and fixed the Hubble space telescope, so I have some perspective on how we use robotics, how we train for robotics.”

A companion book series written by Erin Teague chronicles Luciana’s journey through Space Camp in Alabama to astronaut trainee. American Girl is also joining a partnership to fund Blast Off to Discovery, an educational series for third- though fifth-grade students that includes lesson plans and classroom activities.

Luciana is available for $115, and additional accessories include her space suit and a Martian habitat.