A deich, a naoi, a hocht, a seacht, a sé, a cúig, a ceathair, a trí, a dó, a haon ... Liftoff!

Yes, according to NASA, it won't be long before an Irish native — very possibly an Aer Lingus captain — if off on a space mission

The "American" astronauts of the future will be chosen from the ranks of today's commercial pilots, according to NASA's Capt Winston Scott, a veteran of two space missions.

That means that the first Irish astronaut is just a matter of time, Scott said on a Monday visit to Dublin.

And he believes the current crop of 40 graduates from the Waterford-based Pilot Training College could yield the first candidate.

"There is no doubt in my mind there will be an Irish astronaut — it's just a matter of when, not if," said the 59-year-old pilot.

Scott, who has toured dozens of Irish schools to tell kids about the wonders of space, has apparently also inspired some of the awestruck graduate pilots when he met them over the weekend. And making the transition from a commercial pilot to an astronaut may not be the giant leap they thought.

"It's quite possible some of the space pilots could come from the ranks of commercial pilots," Scott said.

Scott, who is a dean at the Florida Institute of Technology, which is partnered with the Pilot Training College, made three spacewalks during the course of his missions.

"It was fantastic, totally different from anything you can relate to on Earth."

And he happily posed for excited fans in Dublin, wearing the distinctive blue NASA flightsuit and his many mission badges.