Cirque du Soleil founder to become 7th space tourist

Thu Jun 4, 2009 1:09am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte has found an out-of-this-world way to celebrate his 50th birthday -- blasting off into space.

The former fire-eater is on the countdown to become the world's seventh, and Canada's first, space tourist, slated to travel on a Russian Soyuz space craft to the International Space Station (ISS) in September. Chantal Cote, a spokeswoman for the Montreal-based circus troupe, said on Wednesday that Laliberte was all set to travel into space but would not provide further details before a press conference on Thursday.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) said it would give full details of the first philanthropic mission to the ISS by a private Canadian explorer on Thursday.

The announcement was to be made simultaneously in Moscow and in Longueuil, Quebec, which is the CSA headquarters.

Laliberte, 49, a Quebec billionaire who was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2004, will be the seventh tourist to visit the multi-national orbiting space station since April 2001.

He founded Cirque du Soleil 25 years ago and currently owns 95 percent of the company, and is also a professional poker player. Laliberte turns 50 on September 2.

American computer software billionaire Charles Simonyi, 60, who made a fortune as Microsoft's lead software developer, has just returned from his second trip to the ISS.

He paid a total of $60 million for his two space journeys but tourists have paid up to $35 million for the trip, arranged by U.S. company Space Adventures.

The Russian federal space agency launches a Soyuz space craft to the station every six months to rotate the crew on the $100 billion orbital outpost that involves 16 countries.   Continued...

<p>Guy Laliberte, founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, arrives at the international gala premiere of Cirque du Soleil's new show "Zumanity" at the New York-New York Hotel &amp; Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, September 20, 2003. REUTERS/Ethan Miller</p>