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Inspiring northern Ont. youth to be part of the next space race

Space professionals from around the globe have converged on the northern Ontario community of Timmins for the second annual Stardust Festival, igniting a passion for cosmic exploration among local youth that extends far beyond the stars.

The free event, which started Saturday and runs throughout the week, has drawn distinguished speakers from esteemed institutions like NASA, world-renowned aerospace companies, a Timmins woman collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency and even an astronaut integral to the historic Apollo 13 mission.

Collectively, they are sharing stories from their extraordinary careers and offering glimpses at what lies ahead for humanity’s future in deep space.

While they’re not quite old enough yet to lead a mission to Mars, the return of the largest Indigenous STEM+ event aims to show local youth that the sky is certainly not the limit when it comes to their potential to be part of the next space race.

"They are the ones who need to have those little fires built inside of them, to understand that the future is theirs and that the careers in the future, in the space industry, are multiplying faster than we can even imagine," aerospace educator Dianea Phillips said.

She is one of the dozens of industry experts who will be speaking at the festival with that same message in mind.

"Get people excited about Artemis (upcoming lunar exploration program). I want them to know that it’s happening," said Joseph Cassady of Aerojet Rocketdyne.

"I want them to know that it’s something that’s going to go on for most of their careers, probably […] and that this is something that they can be a part of."

Meanwhile, students are showing off their innovative creations, as they prepare for a rocket launch competition this week.

"This is actually a liquid propellant rocket that is capable of reaching space," said Adam Trumpour of Launch Canada.

"That’s never been done before by a student group anywhere in the world."

The festival’s organizer said the event has tripled in size and is going all out to introduce local youth to the space industry and put the city on the industry’s radar.

"Why not put Timmins as a capital of space innovation and research," festival organizer Jason Michaud said.

"There’s nothing that’s standing between us and going to the moon."

A key component of the festival is engaging Indigenous youth, he said, both to introduce them to new possibilities and incorporate their cultural teachings into the new frontier.

"They have so much knowledge that, I think can reshape space and that’s why we want to inspire them," Phillips said.

"It’s about creating generational change and impacting the future," Michaud said.

The Stardust Festival aims to bring the tools that young minds need to not only dream big but make those dreams a reality.

The hope is that one small step for Timmins will allow its youth to take giant leaps. Top Stories

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