Cirque du Soleil founder to become 1st Canadian space tourist
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté will be blasting into space on Sept. 30 as the seventh private citizen to travel to the International Space Station.
The world-renowned circus said in a statement Thursday morning that Laliberté will soar into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
He will be accompanied by a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut and is scheduled to spend 12 days at the station.
The 49-year-old Laliberté, who will be Canada's first space tourist, has long been fascinated by space travel.
Speaking during a news conference Thursday from Moscow where he has begun training for his mission, Laliberté said he's been introduced as a fire-eater, entertainer and artist.
"But being introduced as a space explorer is a new experience for me and I'm profoundly touched by this," he said.
He said the trip is an expression of a childhood dream.
"When man walked on the moon for the first time, I realized the book, The Little Prince could become a reality," he said.
Laliberté called his September space trip a case of "planetary alignment." This year marks the 25th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil, the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Space Agency and, in September, Laliberté's 50th birthday.
His news conference was shown live at the Canadian Space Agency in Longueuil, near Montreal.
The six previous space tourists paid about $35 million when they booked through Space Adventures of Virginia. While Laliberté declined to give an exact cost because of a confidentiality agreement, he says it's "pretty similar" to those that were recently negotiated.
The money will go to the Russian space agency.
Laliberté said he hopes to use his trip to space to raise awareness about the need for clean water around the world. Laliberté founded the One Drop Foundation two years ago to help make safe water accessible around the world.
The Quebec billionaire will be dropping in on Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk, who has just begun a six-month visit to the station.
With files from The Canadian Press