Fairy tale can come true, Canadian space tourist says

Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:11pm EDT
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By Dmitry Solovyov

STAR CITY, Russia (Reuters Life!) - The Canadian billionaire who turned his traveling circus into an entertainment empire, said on Thursday he would fly into space later this month to show a fairy tale dream can come true.

A street artist and then founder of Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, 50, will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 30 aboard a Russian Soyuz spaceship after paying $35 million to become the world's No. 7 "space tourist".

Former fire-breather Laliberte, who owns 95 percent of Cirque du Soleil that he founded in 1984, is estimated to have a self-made fortune of $2.5 billion, according to www.forbes.com.

"My dream -- at first as a kid -- was not necessarily to go into space. My dream was about living in a fairy tale," Laliberte, who will spend about two weeks in space, told a news conference at a space training center outside Moscow.

But this changed all of a sudden when television showed U.S. astronauts alighting from a spaceship on the moon in 1969, said Laliberte who will head to Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for final pre-flight preparations this weekend.

"This is what motivated me all my life ... and the dreams of traveling came, and this was an important idea a couple of years ago (that was) presented to me, and I decided to jump into a fairy tale."

Laliberte, known worldwide for his innovative circus shows, is taking nine clown noses into orbit to drag the station's entire crew into yet another novel performance, to be webcast live on www.onedrop.org site on October 9.

But his philanthropic show will be a serious one. Laliberte said he wants to promote the importance of access to clean water in a world where millions of people in developing countries lack it and water-borne illnesses are a real problem.   Continued...

<p>Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte smiles as he poses in Red Square in Moscow September 10, 2009. REUTERS/Sergei Remezov</p>