Ground control to Cmdr. Hadfield. Commencing countdown — is this thing on?

A planned event with orbiting astronaut Chris Hadfield last April to introduce Canada's space-age polymer bank notes had Finance Department officials creating three highly scripted, colour-coded scenarios in anticipation of potential problems in Earth-to-space communications.

The scenarios, described by a finance official as "a hilarious number of speech contingencies in the event space doesn’t co-operate," are outlined in documents obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

The new $5 and $10 polymer bank notes were unveiled April 30 during an event at Bank of Canada headquarters with Mark Carney, then governor of the Bank of Canada, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Via Rail chairman Paul G. Smith — with a "phone call" from Hadfield aboard the International Space Station as the surprise centrepiece of the event.

The $5 note features images of the Canadarm2 and Dextre, Canadian robotic technologies that were used to build and maintain the space station, while the $10 bill features an iconic Via train, The Canadian, on its journey through the Canadian Rockies.

The "full live script" of the event was planned around a connection with Hadfield that went off mostly without a hitch, but included two other scenarios in case things didn't go as planned.

The preferred script includes a phone call to Carney that "interrupts" Flaherty at a key moment in the press conference and turns out to be Hadfield calling from space.

The first scenario, meticulously planned to the point it included a "stopwatch counting down time (1 minute) to 'ringing' of governor’s phone," played out almost exactly as planned — until Flaherty finished his speech a little early.

After encouraging everyone to come back and visit the Bank of Canada Museum, Flaherty drops the veil a bit. "If you think I’m biding time, I am, I have another 15 seconds or so … we'll wait, we're going to see if this works and we're on time, so something is supposed to happen, we hope."

When Carney's phone finally rings, Flaherty says "Hallelujah" as a grinning Carney stands up to take the call.

That leads to one of the few unscripted moments, as Flaherty quips to Carney — who was in his final weeks on the job before becoming head of the Bank of England — "Don’t tell me it's London calling."

The 'blue' and 'green' scenarios


Astronaut Chris Hadfield poses for a photo with the new polymer $5 bank note on April 30, 2013, during a video feed from the International Space Station. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

A second scenario, known as "the blue script" and drafted in case Hadfield's live feed from space was interrupted, had Flaherty reading from a script printed on blue stationery to introduce astronaut David Saint-Jacques, who was in the audience attending the event. A bank staffer was sitting next to Saint-Jacques with a copy of Hadfield's text to cue him where to pick up Hadfield's remarks in the event of a lost connection. 

The third or "green script" scenario was prepared in case a connection with the space station was impossible. In this case, Flaherty was to read from remarks printed on green stationery that was taped to the podium, to introduce a prerecorded videotape of Hadfield. 

The scenario includes a draft of Hadfield's remarks that had been submitted to the Canadian Space Agency for approval and instructions to Carney to read remarks from the podium's "green script" to introduce Smith, the Via Rail chairman.

Officials seem to have been pleased with the work that went into planning the bank note announcement, with one Bank of Canada official saying, it was "a complicated setup but ended up working well in the end."

Or as one finance official put it in an earlier email, "Should be a cool event. Wish I could go."