Cirque du Soleil owner to travel into space

Thu Jun 4, 2009 4:33pm EDT
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By James Kilner

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Canadian billionaire owner of Cirque du Soleil said on Thursday he would realize a boyhood dream when he blasts off into space on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in September.

Guy Laliberte, a former street artist, will become the world's seventh space tourist.

"I've been introduced as many things in the past -- fire-breather, entrepreneur, performer, partier," he told a news conference. "But today to be introduced as a private space explorer is an enviable and unbelievable feeling."

He had dreamed of traveling in space since he visited a Soviet exhibition on space in Canada in 1967, he said.

Laliberte, 49, will blast off from the Russian launch site on the Kazakh steppe aboard a Soviet-designed Soyuz rocket with a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut on September 30.

He declined to say exactly how much the trip had cost him except that he had paid a similar amount to previous space tourists who paid between $20 million and $35 million.

Laliberte is now training at the Russian cosmonaut center Star City near Moscow.

"I have rediscovered my sense of adventure, the very essence of what stimulated for many years when I lived and worked on the street," he said.   Continued...

<p>Cirque du Soleil impresario Guy Laliberte speaks during a news conference in Moscow, June 4, 2009.REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin</p>