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Mars rover specialist to star at 2023’s Dark Sky Festival

A submitted photo from the Dark Sky Festival in 2014
The Dark Sky Festival in 2014. Photo: Bill Braden

A Mars exploration expert will be a feature attraction at the 2023 Dark Sky Festival in Fort Smith and the Wood Buffalo National Park.

The festival says Nagin Cox, a member of the Nasa team that operates rovers on the Martian surface, will be this year’s keynote speaker. The 2023 festival runs from August 17-20.

Registration for the festival has now opened online. Fees are $125 for adults and $45 for youth aged under 16.

The Dark Sky Festival is a multi-day celebration of astronomy with some events in the NWT town of Fort Smith and some in the neighbouring national park, which is the world’s largest designated Dark Sky Preserve.



Past events have included seminars, workshops and activities like rocket-launching.

This year’s final schedule is in development.

Cox is currently Nasa’s tactical mission lead for the Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, unmanned vehicles controlled from Earth that are exploring Mars.

Curiosity landed on the planet in 2012. Perseverance joined it nine years later.



According to a Nasa biography, Cox was born in Bangalore, India before growing up in Malaysia and the US state of Kansas.

“Her experiences in a Muslim household inspired her to do something that brings people together instead of dividing them,” that biography states. “The space program helps the world ‘look up’ and remember that we are one world.”

Before joining the Mars program, Cox worked as a space operations officer for Norad and US Space Command.

Author Richard Van Camp will be 2023 Dark Sky Festival’s host, and the festival will also feature astronomer Roland Dechesne.