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Among the kids reaching for the stars this summer, two youth from the NWT will joining Canada’s Junior Astronaut Space Camp program.

Fort Smith’s Taylor Porter and Inuvik’s Kieran McCarthy will join 50 eager astronauts-in-waiting at the July 26 to 30 camp, which will be held online.

“My family and I were talking about what we wanted to do when we are older,” said Porter. “I mentioned that being an astronaut would be really cool and I guess my mom remembered about this camp. She asked me if I was interested in participating and of course, I said yes.”

Taylor Porter says she wants to learn more about the experience of being an astronaut this summer. Porter was one of two NWT youth to win the draw to attend the first-ever Canadian Junior Astronaut Space Camp. photo courtesy of Canadian Space Agency

“I really like the idea that there’s so much more out there that we don’t know about. Just thinking about it makes you realize how small you are and how much power you actually hold. I find it super cool to think that there might be other life forms or even civilizations on other planets that we have no idea about. We don’t know what we could find out there, it could range from new resources to new friends… or enemies.”

McCarthy, who is also an avid fan of robotics, said he was really excited to be attending.

He said he had heard about the program two years ago and put in an entry and much to his own surprise, he was selected. He said the vast scope of space

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“The world gets smaller and smaller every day on Earth,” he said. “There’s so much out there. I’ve heard there may even be planets made of diamonds.”

This is the first-ever Canadian Junior Astronaut Camp. Originally planned for 2020, the camp was delayed to this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Attendees were selected randomly from a pool of candidates across Canada. To be eligible for the draw, candidates had to complete a task in one of three streams that reflect the workload of an astronaut — either fitness and nutrition, communications and teamwork or science and technology. They also had to submit a video explaining why they wanted to attend the camp.

Now that they’ve made the cut, the space campers will be put to work on several important activities reflecting space exploration. They will remotely operate a real lunar rover in a test-simulation. They will use satellite images to solve on the ground problems. They will experience physical training alongside astronauts and learn about robotics and the role they place in space.

Having recently competed in the Skills Canada National Robotics competition, McCarthy said he wanted to learn more about the logistics of space exploration.

With several years of robotics under his belt already, McCarthy is already learning the skills needed to grow into a career in space. He said he first focused on the programming, but this year built his first robot by himself.

Kieran McCarthy gives two thumbs up to the fact he’s going to be learning about space exploration this summer. McCarthy was one of two NWT youth to win the draw to attend the first-ever Canadian Junior Astronaut Space Camp. photo courtesy of Canadian Space Agency

“It was a robot kit. There was an instruction manual for it, and I modified that into a whole new robot. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It picked up wooden dowels. I could just put on the floor, it drove over to a platform and put them down. It could stack them on top of each other, so it would essentially build a wood log-house.

“It sounds very simple, but it took me months to program that.”

As for Porter, she looking forward to learning more about the experience of being an astronaut, though she noted she had not committed to the lifestyle as of yet.

“I would love to learn about people’s experiences going to space and how that affected them mentally and physically,” she said. “I want to expand my knowledge on the reality of things in our universe and find out some of the everyday things you’d have to go through to be an astronaut. I know that it is a real challenge to get there but doing this camp will definitely help give me tips on what to do.”

“I think that it would be an amazing job and so cool to be able to do that but I’m not sure if it’s that realistic. Yes, my dream is to go to space and to be an astronaut or something close to it but it is a lot of hard work to put in and I’m not sure if I’m up to it. I will definitely consider this job field when I’m older but it all depends on what I enjoy and exceed in and\or out of school.”

McCarthy expressed his thanks to his family and robotics instructor, whom he credited for keeping him looking to the stars.

“Thank you mom and dad, thank you to all my friends at the robotics club and thank you to all my teachers as well,” he said.

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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