Ireland has always been a beacon of beauty and wonder. When Patrick Sarsfield and his followers left in 1691, they took the name ‘The Wild Geese’ in the hope and belief that they would one day return. For The Wild Geese, Ireland was always in their hearts and motivated their courageous actions.
When Chris Hadfield journeyed into space on his last mission, he experienced this connection from a different perspective:
‘The first glimpse you get of earth after you launch in a space shuttle from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida is the green of Ireland. It is a wonderful sight when the sun shines through the cloud and you see a green, green jewel, after all the blue of the Atlantic’
Like The Wild Geese, Hadfield is a pioneer in his own right. Born in Canada, Chris’s ambition was fueled when he watched Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk in 1969. He couldn’t shake that ambition, and even though Canada did not have a space programme until 1983, his mind was made up and his path was chosen. He trained in the Canadian air force and was eventually selected as one of four recruits for the country’s space programme.
‘It’s absurd,’ Hadfield admits, ‘but not impossible. But we’re human and that’s what we do. And so I figured, what the heck, it interests me’. Now having returned from his final space mission, he had made it.
And it was on his final space mission that he found a connection to Ireland after posting famous images of the country from space:
‘Looking down from my perch in space, Ireland was just a tiny speck on the western fringes of Europe, yet managed to have a huge impact as I orbited the earth’
He soon found that this was a two way dialogue and Irish people from all over the world wanted to connect with him.
‘Sharing emotions and language with the Irish people was phenomenal. The warm gush of acceptance that I experienced on this space flight was special’
While viewing Ireland hundreds of miles above the earth, Hadfield contemplated the legend of The Wild Geese:
‘A lot of young Irish people have emigrated, but it is possible to be proud and remember where you are from… you can never take away that feeling of home’
Chris Hadfield’s comments come from his extract in ‘The Gathering – Reflections on Ireland’, a book from The Irish Hospice Association. He will be visiting his new found friends in Ireland this December when he travels to Dublin.