Red-nosed circus billionaire returns to Earth

Sun Oct 11, 2009 6:48pm EDT
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By Dmitry Solovyov

KOROLYOV, Russia (Reuters) - Canadian circus billionaire Guy Laliberte returned to Earth on Sunday wearing his trademark clown's red nose, landing as planned in Kazakhstan after a landmark space performance to highlight water scarcity.

A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying Laliberte and a Russian-American crew touched down in the vast steppe near Arkalyk in northern Kazakhstan at 0831 Moscow time (0431 GMT).

"We have just received a report from the rescue and recovery team that the descent capsule has landed," said an announcer at Mission Control outside Moscow, to hearty applause from workers.

Laliberte, a former fire-breather and founder of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, spent about two weeks in space.

A Reuters reporter at Mission Control, watching a live feed from the landing site, saw Laliberte seated on a chaise longue after leaving the craft. He smiled and gave a thumbs-up gesture.

He was draped in a coat with a blanket covering his legs and his blood pressure was being monitored by the rescue and recovery team. A Russian Orthodox priest also was present.

The 50-year-old, who is worth an estimated $2.5 billion and was reported to have paid more than $35 million to become Earth's No. 7 space tourist, entertained the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) and hosted a show from the space outpost.

The show, aimed at highlighting the scarcity of clean water for people in many parts of the world, involved singers, dancers and celebrities in 14 cities around the world. Organizers called the "Moving Stars and Earth for Water" spectacle the first of its kind to be hosted from space.   Continued...