The first doll to ever travel to outer space is from none other than Co. Donegal.
On December 6, Stargazer Lottie traveled a long way from her Irish home to the International Space Station to spend a few months with three astronauts from the UK, America and Russia, much to excitement of the young Canadian doll designer, Abigail, who dreams of following in her creation’s footsteps as soon as she’s old enough.
Shooting for the stars aboard Orbital ATK's “S.S. Deke Slayton II” Cygnus cargo spacecraft, the planet-hopping doll is the latest adventurer developed by Lottie Dolls from Donegal-based company Arklu, which develops toys based on suggestions of young children, encouraging them to develop these interests further and to pursue them in their adult lives.
The idea for Stargazer Lottie came to the company from Abigail when her mother, Zoe, emailed to thank Arklu for the Lottie dolls she had already bought for her daughter. She was very impressed in the company’s ideas for their toys saying that they focused “on what the doll can do, take part in, rather than the way it looks.”
Speaking further with the company’s co-founder Lucie Follett, Zoe discussed her daughter’s other interests, the biggest of which was astronomy.
“We developed Lottie based on an idea that came to us from a little girl called Abigail. She’s six years of age and she’s from Canada,” Ian Harkin, managing director and founder of Arklu, told Irish radio station Newstalk.
“Abigail, she’s a big fan of astronomy, and her hero is Chris Hadfield. We have a monthly competition where we get kids to submit different product ideas to us and this was one of our winning entries.”
Arklu is already committed to creating dolls that differ from the old-fashioned Barbie and Action Men. Lottie and her male counterpart, Finn, are said to be nine-years-old, relatable, age-appropriate, fun dolls or in other words “A doll just like me!”
“We wanted to promote STEM subjects to girls,” Harkin said to Newstalk.
“STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. We contacted the European Space Agency and together, we want to promote science subjects to girls so we developed a little collector cards that comes with the doll, teaching kids all about the solar system, and we also have an information pack all about famous female astronomers and astronauts.”
Abigail, already excited about all things astronomy-related, was very involved in the design process once her idea was chosen to become reality and she helped in deciding what would accompany her new space buddy as well as what would come on the box.
Looking to do more than simply create the doll, Lottie dolls decided to look into the possibility of bring Stargazer Lottie where no other doll had gone before – to outer space.
“We contacted the space station and we were trying to figure out what’s the best possible way that we can raise awareness of the doll,” Harkin continued.
“Earlier this year, she won the ‘Little Scientist’ Space Age Award at the New York Toy Fair and we were brainstorming about the next activity we could do and we proposed sending her up to space.
“Space travel’s all about pushing boundaries and trying to get the next generation interested in science subjects so we thought it was the perfect fit. Six months later she was packed and ready.”
Needless to say, Abigail was very excited to see Lottie blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and as can be seen in the video below made by filmmaker Elena Rossini. She was eager to cheer on her friend.
“Sometimes I look up and think maybe I could go up there one day or could I somehow see what’s up there,” Abigail said.
“So maybe one day I will go and see many stars, even more than I saw from earth, and I will just say to myself …wow! How lucky am I to be living.”
Not only did she get to design the first ever doll to leave the Earth’s atmosphere but Abigail was also sent a message by her hero, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. She proudly showed off her signed book. Hadfield became a national treasure in Ireland as the first person to use the Irish language while orbiting Earth, sending some beautiful images of the Emerald Isle home as well.
“I had to ask him did he see any meteorites,” Abigail said of meeting her idol.
Not only was Stargazer Lottie the first doll in space but accompanying her in the space station is the first ever official British astronaut from the British European Space Agency, Tim Peake. The 43-year-old will spend six months manning the station.
The Gold Edition Stargazer Lottie Doll and many other Lottie dolls are available in the US at more than 1,000 independent toy stores, selected Toys R Us stores, Hallmark, Barnes & Noble and at www.lottie.com.