CHRIS Hadfield pulled on the green jersey, looking thrilled and fully aware that it marked an extraordinary moment in a relationship which first began 200 miles above the Earth’s orbit.
Circling the globe in the International Space Station, he had taken a snap picture of a coastal city through the inevitable cloud cover — and thought he knew what part of the world it was, but couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
Putting the question to his many Twitter followers, he groaned when he realised it was Dublin, the city where his daughter Kirstin was studying.
In five months on the Space Station, Hadfield took 45,000 pictures, enjoyed throughout the world. But it was the little shot of Ireland that strangely seemed to have the most impact on his life.
The subsequent warmth of exchanges from the Irish people blew him away — and when he shared a mesmerising picture of a radiant Ireland by night with its towns and cities gleaming like stars, the feeling was most definitely mutual.
He even became the first person to tweet as Gaeilge from space, with “Ta Eire fioralainn! Land of green hills & dark beer. With capital Dublin glowing in the Irish night.”
Now triumphantly unveiled as Ireland’s Tourism Ambassador, Hadfield says he is honoured by the distinction and is looking forward to a week touring around the country in his new capacity.
He will even play guitar in a session in a pub — but as yet is unsure where.
In person, he has more charisma than any earthbound Hollywood ‘celebrity’ with his mesmerising account of doing a space walk while being peppered by meteorites.
But despite his travails in space, it is to Earth that he constantly refers back, as he speaks of its beauty and its vulnerability.
We live precariously on ‘the skin of the porridge’, he says — sandwiched between the death and blackness of space and the bubbling molten rock of the earth below.
“And we think it’s permanent,” he half-joked.
At the Laya Healthcare summit on business and self-empowerment yesterday, the quintessential Canadian with his neat frame and moustache had the audience in the palm of his hand, as he spoke passionately of the need for any leader to be competent, and to plan ahead.