There’s a new space race, and this time it’s on the small screen. With the anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission (the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the moon) taking place later this month, it seems everyone is shooting for the, well, stars with new content offerings.
Barbie took her first space walk in 1965, and now Mattel is partnering with the European Space Agency (ESA) in an effort to encourage girls to become astronauts, engineers and space scientists. As part of the Barbie Dream Gap Project, the toyco is launching space-themed short-form content and presented Samantha Cristoforetti—the only active female astronaut in Europe—with a one-of-a-kind doll in her likeness. (Cristoforetti is an aviator, engineer and astronaut at a time when only 15% of active astronauts are female, and no woman has ever landed on the moon.) The upcoming content includes kid-focused videos on Barbie’s vlog channel on YouTube, as well as a series of videos starring girls from the UK, Germany, France and Italy visiting Cristoforetti at the ESA European Astronaut center in Cologne, Germany.
Earlier this year, Mattel highlighted astronaut (along with pilot, athlete, journalist, politician and firefighter) as part of its Barbie Career 60th Anniversary doll collection.
Barbie also commissioned research in the UK, Germany, France and Italy in June to better understand girls’ attitudes toward STEM (2,000 parents of girls ages three to 10 were surveyed in each participating country). The majority of parents said their daughter currently shows an interest in pursuing a STEM-related career, but most also reported wishing they had more knowledge of those jobs to help inform their children.
Beyond Barbie, a raft of space-themed content is on the horizon. Australia’s ABC ME and Nine Network recently hooked up with German pubcaster Super RTL to commission a new animated kids series called Space Nova from Sydney-based SLR Productions. The 26 x 24-minute sci-fi adventure-comedy for tweens and families stars siblings living on an international space station with their astronaut parents and schoolmates.
Apple TV, meanwhile, launched the partially-scripted “documentary” entitled Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10 in May. Based around true facts—including that Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was approached by NASA in the 1960s to incorporate his characters into space missions—the film follows a “crew” trying to solve the mystery of whether or not Snoopy was a top-secret astronaut.
California-based prodco Wind Dancer Films is also heading to the moon with a number of space-themed extensions for its CGI-animated series Ready Jet Go!, including hour-long special Ready Jet Go!: One Small Step, as well as week-long summer camps taking place in cities across the US.