Circus tycoon clowns around after space docking

Fri Oct 2, 2009 9:26am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Aydar Buribayev

KOROLYOV, Russia (Reuters) - Canadian circus billionaire Guy Laliberte, dubbed the first clown in space, arrived at the International Space Station in a Russian space craft on Friday on a 10-day trip that cost over $35 million.

Laliberte, a former fire-breather and founder of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, donned a red clown's nose and waved to his wife and children in a video link-up from the space station to mission control in the town of Korolyov near Moscow.

"I'm adapting pretty good ... but I ain't staying six months," he said to laughter from his colleagues who will each spend several months onboard the cramped outpost.

Laliberte plans to use the trip to draw attention to the importance of access to clean water on Earth and is due to hold a two-hour webcast on October 9 featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Irish rock group U2 and others.

The 50-year-old is worth an estimated $2.5 billion, having turned a passion for acrobatics and circus acts into a global entertainment empire.

He paid more than $35 million for the privilege of becoming Earth's seventh space tourist, blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.

A camera on board the Soyuz module showed grainy black and white pictures of the space station slowly coming into view on a giant screen at mission control. "We have contact," a Russian official said, prompting applause from watching relatives.

Laliberte climbed through the hatch into the space station with the Russian cosmonaut and U.S. astronaut who accompanied him. They took turns embracing the six-man station crew before lining up to talk to relatives via a video link.   Continued...

<p>Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte jokes after putting on his space suit at Baikonur cosmodrome September 30, 2009. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov</p>