Astronaut Chris Hadfield returns to Ireland

Astronaut Chris Hadfield landed in Shannon Airport this evening and stated it was good to be back on Ireland’s west coast.

Hadfield, known for performing David Bowie classic Space Oddity while aboard the International Space Station, is Canada’s most accomplished astronaut.

A big fan of Ireland, he garnered a huge social media following the recording and by the time he sent the first ever tweet as Gaeilge from space later that year, it reached half a million people.

Hadfield is now a Tourism Ireland ambassador and will record three short videos, including one on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Stepping back on Irish soil, he declared “It’s good to be back”.

The former cub scout was given a warm Shannon welcome on arrival as he was greeted by scouts from the 1st Clare Shannon Scouts and representatives for Shannon Airport.

He attended a reception in the airport’s Presidential Suite for refreshments and while there signed a VIP book that has been signed over the years by other space travellers, the most recent of which was Al Worden, one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon and another regular visitor to Ireland.

Photo: Arthur Ellis Photography

“I’ve always had an interest in Ireland and Irish culture; hence my tweet As Gaeilge from space.

“My daughter Kristin studied for her PhD to Trinity College and my niece Kelly is currently studying at the UL medical school so I have something of a love affair with this place," he said.

“I was delighted to be a tourism ambassador for Ireland and that got me to see much more of the country than I could ever have hoped. That included a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, which was majestic. One of the most beautiful places I’ve visited.

Photo: Arthur Ellis Photography

“And now I’m back here at Shannon Airport, the gateway for the Wild Atlantic Way and an airport with its own space links given it was a designated emergency runway for space shuttles, but thankfully was never used as an emergency," he added.

He will be speaking at the Shannon International Leasing Conference tomorrow.

Hadfield will perform as part of a Ghana Medical Health fundraiser in the Clayton Hotel, Limerick tonight.

Photo: Arthur Ellis Photography

He said his trip will be "short but very sweet".

"I’m looking forward to meeting Kelly, at tonight’s gig and, of course, tomorrow’s conference.

“I’m staying at a 15th century castle, Knappogue Castle in County Clare, which will be a great experience also. Ireland is full of those experiences and it’s great to be back,” he added.

Shannon Airport Managing Director Andrew Murphy said it was a "great privilege" to meet the astronaut.

"It’s not every day you get to meet a man who has circumnavigated the globe 2,650 times. He’s a space star for sure but the great thing is his feet are firmly on the ground and that’s evident the moment you meet him.

"He’s a great supporter of Ireland and the west coast and we made it clear to him that we’d have him back anytime!”

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