Astronaut speaks of delight at becoming Irish tourism envoy

Former space station commander to make films showcasing island’s best attractions

Commander Chris Hadfield, who has agreed to become a tourism “ambassador” for Ireland, explains how his relationship with the island came about.

Former International Space Station (ISS) commander Commander Chris Hadfield has agreed to become a tourism ambassador for Ireland.

Cmdr Hadfield, who spoke in Dublin today at the Laya Healthcare Pendulum summit, will promote some of Ireland's best known attractions including the Guinness Storehouse, Titanic Belfast and the Wild Atlantic Way. He is giving his services free of charge.

He said the interest that Irish people had shown in his photographs from space and his daughter Kristin’s happiness at living in Ireland persuaded him to promote the country .

“To be able to take pictures of Ireland like nobody else can do and share them with the people from tip to tip, it was a lovely unexpected delight,” he said.


“ I don‘t think you have to be from somewhere to appreciate it and maybe a stranger’s set of eyes will help other people see it even better. I’m just delighted, I don’t exaggerate my role at all. I’m happy to meet as many people as possible over the next few days.”

His decision to act as an ambassador is something of a coup for Tourism Ireland which promotes the whole island as a tourist destination.

He was first approached through Twitter by Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons before Christmas.

It will be particularly helpful in Cmdr Hadfield's native Canada where there are now year-long direct flights to Ireland for the first time. Tourism Ireland believe Canada is an underdeveloped marketing for Irish tourism.

His itinerary will include a trip to Croke Park tomorrow where he will try out hurling along with a visit to Donegal where he will learn more 'cúpla focals' to go along with the ones he tweeted from space.

The Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar said Cmdr Hadfield will be a "great ambassador for Irish tourism … I'm really delighted he has agreed to help us out."

The former astronaut became a global sensation when he used social media to tweet pictures of the Earth while commanding the ISS last year. His video version of David Bowie's Space Oddity has been viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube.

He has taken a particular interest in Ireland and tweeted as gaeilge in February: “Tá Éire fíorálainn! Land of green hills and dark beer. With Dublin glowing in the Irish night.”

He signalled his interest in Irish music last February when duetting with The Chieftains from space and sang Danny Boy on St Patrick's Day.

When he visited Ireland last month, all bookshops in Dublin sold out of his autobiography An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth.

His daughter Kristin is a PhD psychology student in Trinity College Dublin and Cmdr Hadfield visited Ireland before he became world-famous.

In an interview with The Irish Times while he was in space, Cmdr Hadfield spoke of his previous visit in Ireland in 2011.

"We went hiking in Glendalough, attended the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, drank Guinness from the rooftop panorama after the factory tour, attended Gaelic football and a hurling match (Dublin vs Cork), saw the Book of Kells, looked at a round tower, and had a chipper," he said.

Tourism Ireland will create three short films of Hadfield's five-day visit. These films will then be shared by Tourism Ireland on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

During his time here with his wife Helene, Cmdr Hadfield will also be tweeting about what he sees and experiences.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons described Cmdr Hadfield as “an enormously popular, global figure” who had already promoted Ireland through the many photographs he had tweeted from space while passing overhead.

Cmdr Hadfield will speak at the Laya Healthcare Pendulum summit this afternoon in the Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) and will also attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition on Saturday.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times