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A doll named Luciana Vega is unveiled as the American Girl of the Year for 2018 on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as Space Camp girls look on. (ABC / GMA)

American Girl put a Space Age spin on the centuries-old tradition of dress-up dolls today by unveiling a spacesuit-clad character named Luciana Vega as its “Girl of the Year” for 2018.

The big reveal came on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” when the 18-inch-high doll was lowered to the set amid a throng of girls wearing Space Camp uniforms. Each of them got a doll.

American Girl, which has been putting out dolls and accessories with elaborate stories behind them since 1986, says Vega’s character is an 11-year-old “aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars.”

The doll, its back story and its product line were developed with advice from NASA astronaut Megan McArthur Behnken, former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan, U.S. Space and Rocket Center CEO Deborah Barnhart and Maureen O’Brien, manager of strategic alliances at NASA.

American Girl’s editors and designers visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., to get acquainted with astronauts as well as Space Camp trainees.

American Girl says Luciana Vega is the first character to take a deep dive into science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

“We’ve had STEM products before, but we really wanted to do a whole character to show girls that STEM is cool,” designer Rebecca Dekuiper was quoted as saying.

Luciana Vega book cover
The doll character is the subject of chapter books being published by Scholastic. NASA’s Space Launch System appears on the cover. (Scholastic / NASA / American Girl)

And it’s not just about the doll: The accessories include a flight suit and a spacesuit, a “Maker Station” and a Mars habitat. American Girl fans can also connect with the doll through a smartphone app and a series of books published by Scholastic.

In conjunction with the doll’s debut, American Girl is working with Scholastic, NASA and Space Camp on an educational program called “Blast Off to Discovery,” aimed at sparking STEM interest among third- through fifth-grade students. There’ll also be a “Mission to Mars Sweepstakes,” sponsored by American Girl and Scholastic.

The Luciana Vega doll goes on sale online and at American Girl retail locations, including Alderwood Mall, on Jan. 1. The “Blast Off to Discovery program” will be available via Scholastic’s website starting Jan. 31.

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