Cirque du Soleil founder to be next space tourist

Thu Jul 23, 2009 6:09pm EDT
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By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - A Canadian billionaire who turned a passion for acrobatics and circus acts into a global entertainment empire will look for inspiration in space in September when he becomes the latest "space tourist."

Guy Laliberte, 49, founder of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, which operates fast-moving cultural-themed circus shows, told reporters on Thursday his foray outside the Earth's atmosphere would be a "poetic, social mission."

Laliberte is preparing for a September 30 launch aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to become the seventh fare-paying tourist to the International Space Station. The cost of a 12-day trip is about $35 million. Most of the "tourists" who have gone before him were technology or business moguls.

"I'm not a scientist. I'm not a doctor. I'm not an engineer. I'm an artist. I'm a creator and I'll try to do and accomplish this mission with my creative ability and what life has given me as a tool," Laliberte told a news conference in Houston broadcast by NASA.

He said he would seek to "inspire myself as much as possible" in the weightless world of microgravity.

The father of five children, aged 2 to 12, said he wanted to use his space flight to raise awareness of the critical role water plays in people's lives on Earth.

"Water is a vital resource for a human being and unfortunately it is put in danger," Laliberte said.

"In the near future, there is real problem in front of us in regard to access to clean water. This is already the main cause of death existing on the planet. ... So I think it is important we become conscious of that as citizens of planet Earth. So I give myself a mission of talking about it," he said.   Continued...