NASA TV
Irish astronaut Cady Coleman plays a pennywhistle on loan from the Irish band the Chieftains while flying in the Kibo lab on the International Space Station Thursday on St. Patrick's Day.
By Managing editor
updated 3/17/2011 7:47:48 PM ET 2011-03-17T23:47:48

Irish-American astronaut Cady Coleman has not forgotten her Emerald Isle roots, even as she sails high above Earth on the International Space Station. The NASA astronaut marked St. Patrick's Day in space by playing a solo on a 100-year-old Irish flute.

"I love St. Patrick's Day," Coleman said in a NASA video released on Thursday. "In my family, we are a quarter Irish on each side and somehow that adds up to much more than a half."

When she launched toward the space station in December on a Russian spacecraft, Coleman — a hobby flutist — made sure to take a bit of that Irish heritage along for the ride. She packed away two Irish instruments — an antique wooden flute and a shiny pennywhistle — that were loaned to her by the members of the Chieftains, an Irish band.

"St. Patrick's Day is a day when people all over the Earth recognize their Irish heritage," Coleman said while wearing an appropriately green shirt. "And now we're doing that from space as well."

The wooden flute is owned by Chieftains member Matt Molloy, and the pennywhistle is one used by his bandmate Paddy Maloney, Coleman said. 

"I might not have mentioned that the trip would have been six months long and that their flutes would have traveled millions of miles before they came home, but I'd like to reassure them that their treasures are just fine," Coleman said. "They're actually never far from home because we fly over Ireland several times a day."

Coleman actually took four flutes into space with her on this current mission. In addition to those from the Chieftains and her personal flute, she also has one from Ian Anderson, founder of the band Jethro Tull.

Coleman is one of three astronauts currently living on the International Space Station (three other crew members returned to Earth yesterday ), and is the outpost's only American crew member. An Italian astronaut and Russian cosmonaut round out the crew.

Another three spaceflyers (a NASA astronaut and two cosmonauts) are due to launch toward the space station in the next few weeks. Their initial March 29 liftoff was delayed because of a technical glitch on their spacecraft.

Coleman and her two current station crewmates are scheduled to return to Earth in September.

You can follow Space.com managing editor Tariq Malik on Twitter@tariqjmalik. See Space.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter@Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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