The first Canadian civilian to buy a ticket to space said Thursday he's eager to begin practical training for his September trip to the International Space Station.
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté is scheduled to blast off on Sept. 30 aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, becoming Canada's first space tourist and just the seventh civilian to fly alongside astronauts and cosmonauts on the Russian spaceships.
At a news conference, Laliberté said his training has been theoretical thus far, but practical training is set to begin soon.
"It has been full weeks because I'm in an intensive training program, but until now it's been a fantastic experience," Laliberté said.
"A lot of work, a lot of studying, but a lot of fun, too."
Laliberté paid nearly $35 million to Russia's space agency for the chance to fly on the spacecraft. He'll spend 12 days aboard the space station and meet with Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk, who is currently two months into a six-month stay aboard the orbiting facility.
The Quebec billionaire said he hopes to use his trip to space to raise awareness about the need for clean water around the world. Laliberté created the One Drop Foundation two years ago to help make safe water accessible globally.
"I'm not a scientist, I'm not a doctor, I'm not an engineer," Laliberté said. "I'm an artist, I'm a creator and I'll try to accomplish this mission with my creativity and what life has given me as a tool."
While Laliberté was speaking at a news conference in Houston, astronauts aboard the station — including Thirsk and fellow Canadian Julie Payette — were preparing to put a new robotic arm to work Thursday.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and American astronaut Tim Kopra will use the Kibo module's robotic arm to transfer two experiments and a communication system to the recently installed exposed portion of Kibo's laboratory.
On Wednesday, two astronauts installed two of four batteries outside the International Space Station, but cut the spacewalk short after one of the astronaut's space suits had higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide. The remaining two batteries will be serviced during a later spacewalk.