Northern Ireland

Commander Chris Hadfield: Singing spaceman to promote Irish tourism

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Media captionThe former commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, visited Belfast on Tuesday

The former commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, is to promote the island of Ireland as a tourist destination.

The retired Canadian astronaut made fans around the world by posting videos and pictures from his final space mission on social media last year.

He has agreed to make a series of short promotional films with Tourism Ireland.

He arrived in Ireland on Thursday, and will visit Dublin, Belfast, Armagh, the Glens of Antrim and County Donegal.

On his Twitter account, the astronaut said: "Good Morning, Ireland! Happily headed to Dublin and Belfast, hoping to learn a cúpla focal (a couple of words)."

Gaelic translation

Cmdr Hadfield gained a significant Twitter following in Ireland after he became the first person to tweet from space using the Irish language.

At the time he said he had been given help with the Irish translation by friends of his daughter, who is a university student in Dublin.

The astronaut is now set to take more lessons in speaking Irish during his trip to County Donegal.

Cmdr Hadfield will also learn how to play the Irish sport of hurling when he visits Dublin's Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

Tourism Ireland said it will create three short films of his five-day visit and use them to showcase Ireland's "spectacular scenery", Gaelic games and major visitor attractions, such as Titanic Belfast and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

They said they would use the films in an "extensive publicity and PR campaign".

'Space Oddity'

During his final space mission, Cmdr Hadfield tweeted aerial pictures of various places on Earth from his perspective on the International Space Station - many of them were of Ireland.

He also sang the Irish ballad Danny Boy on the station to celebrate St Patrick's Day, but it was his version of David Bowie's Space Oddity that gained most attention.

The video went viral on the internet and propelled the singing spaceman to worldwide attention.

He now has more than a million followers on Twitter.

Tourism Ireland's chief executive, Niall Gibbons, said: "We are delighted to welcome Chris Hadfield to Ireland. I would like to personally thank him for his tremendous generosity in agreeing to help us promote the island of Ireland around the world.

'Great ambassador'

"Of course, he already began promoting Ireland last year, with the dramatic photos he tweeted from the International Space Station to his huge Twitter fanbase.

"Chris is an enormously popular, global figure and I am confident that our films of his visit to Ireland will be seen and shared by millions of potential holidaymakers around the world - inspiring them to come and sample the destination for themselves."

Irish Tourism Minister, Leo Varadkar, said: "Having seen Ireland from space, it's great to be able to give Chris Hadfield a closer look at what Ireland has to offer on the ground.

"His enthusiasm and energy make him a great ambassador for Irish tourism, and should help to persuade many more to come and see Ireland close up in 2014. I'm really delighted he has agreed to help us out."

Cmdr Hadfield retired in July 2013 and returned to live in Canada.

During his trip to Ireland, the astronaut will also attend the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in Dublin and is due to sign copies of his book in Belfast and Londonderry.