After outer space, any terrestrial trip has got to feel like a comedown.
But this morning, at exactly 10:30 am GMT, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfied tweeted,"Good morning, Ireland! Happily headed to Dublin and Belfast. Hoping to learn a cúpla focals [a couple of words]."
(Some on Twitter proceeded to correct the former International Space Station commander that the proper usage is "focail".)
The message was accompanied by a photo of what appears to be the country taken from high above the earth plus a link to an article about his visit in The Irish Times.
The story notes that Cmdr Hadfield was approached by Tourism Ireland's Niall Gibbons via Twitter. As of today, the astronaut is an official tourism ambassador (on an unpaid, volunteer basis) for the country.
"I wasn't expecting to develop any sort of relationship with Ireland while I was in space," he said from Dublin as the guest speaker at a healthcare summit. "It wasn't planned; it wasn't a construct or anything."
Hadfield went on to explain that his daughter Kristin is doing her doctorate at Trinity and that he just happened to take a picture from space of a harbour that proved to be Dublin.
Consequently, Hadfield has visited the country several times, including a trip last month. In an interview with The Irish Times from space last year, he recalled his trip 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 [fish and chips meal]," he told those in attendance at the healthcare summit.
And yet, there is much more to do and see – and drink! Whether this was a wise or surprise career move for Hadfield should probably be left to personal brand pundits.
When upwards of 20 million people have watched you sing David Bowie's Space Oddity – from space – your autobiography becomes an international bestseller and you have more than a million followers on Twitter, you've already reached the upper stratosphere of fame. And it's not as if Hadfield agreed to be the new face of Milky Way candy bars.
But you have to wonder how the Canadian Tourism Commission didn't think of this first. In the six hours since announcing the news, his five-day visit has arguably been the most positive news to come out of Ireland since, well….
Indeed, Tourism Ireland must already pleased with their ambassador's latest mission. In Hadfield, they have found their pot of gold (it's probably no coincidence, there are now direct flights to Ireland, year-round, from Toronto).
And two words for Cmdr Hadfield: Happy trails!