Christmas came early for seven-year-old Luke Lally from Birr last weekend, who turned his back on plans to visit Santa in Galway in favour of meeting his hero in Dublin.
After leaving his home at 5am on Saturday morning to travel to a book signing at Eason on O’Connell Street by former International Space Station (ISS) commander Chris Hadfield, the youngster queued for hours and ended up being the first person to meet Commander Hadfield in person.
“It was better than going to see Santa Claus,” Luke told the Offaly Independent this week.
In return for his patience, Eason staff let Luke bring home a cardboard cut-out of Cmdr Hadfield that was part of the sell-out book signing session. That cardboard cut-out now has pride of place in the Lally household in Garbally, right next to a Santa figure.
Living just outside the town that for years was home to the world’s largest telescope, Luke’s interest in space is not surprising. Just this summer he took part in a Space Camp at Birr Castle, where he learned how to build a rocket and launch. He also has plans to become an astronaut in the future, and more specifically be the first person on Mars.
Luke’s interest in space is shared by his younger siblings Tim (4) and Fia (3). Currently suffering from chicken pox, both Tim and Fia had to remain at home last Saturday. The cardboard cut-out their big brother brought home offered some consolation however, and mum Deardriu said Fia - recognising the man the family follow on Twitter and regularly watch on YouTube videos - proudly tells everyone that the cut-out is of “my astronaut”.
With hundreds of people looking to grab some time with Cmdr Hadfield, Luke had only a minute to chat with him. That chat included compliments from Cmdr Hadfield for the NASA t-shirt Luke wore on the day however, and thanks for being so patient waiting for him.
“He was pretty cool,” Luke said, adding that his signed copy of 'An Astronaut’s Guide to Life' is his “best Christmas present”.