July 24, 2009

Circus Co-Founder Launching Into Space In September

A former circus performer, whose talents include stiltwalking and fire-eating, answered questions at a NASA press conference on Thursday, noting that he will be "like a kid in a candy store" when playing with zero-gravity on his upcoming trip to the International Space Station.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte is paying $35 million for a round-trip ticket on a Russian spacecraft. He will launch into orbit from Kazakhstan in September with an astronaut and cosmonaut, and spend one week at the station.

During a news conference in Houston, Laliberte was flooded with questions from reporters.

"As you know, 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 creativity and what life has given me as a tool," stated the Quebec billionaire.

Laliberte admitted that he would not perform any fire tricks in space. However, he wants to try and execute some acrobatics in the zero gravity.

"I don't know how we'll be using stilts up there," he said. "But I think there are a couple little things, hopefully, that I have learned in my career of street entertainer that I will try to apply up there."

"I think I will be more like a kid in a candy store up there, discovering things that those guys know. Because I know what I can do on Earth. But what I'm really interested, is to gain and learning what their world is."

Laliberte said that he views his life as a fairy tale and that when seeing men land on the moon 40 years ago, he knew that all things were indeed possible. Now he wants to inspire other children.

"It's important to show examples of such things toward any type of activities, circus, entertainment, space exploration, it doesn't matter. Because what is important to communicate to the generation to come, to our children, is inspire them to commit, to believe in themselves ... and also believe that they can contribute to build a better world," said Laliberte, the father of five children.

During the press conference, astronauts 220 miles up situated science experiments on the new porch of Japan's $1 billion space station lab. The partnering crews of the space station and shuttle Endeavour built the porch last week.

They placed a 33-foot robot arm on the lab, Kibo, Japanese for "hope," to help with three experiments, on the new porch. An X-ray telescope was set up, followed by a set of communication equipment. Finally, a space environment monitor for calculating atomic oxygen, cosmic dust and light particles was placed with the others.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata was first to use the lab's robot arm, which was utilized to lift payloads. Wakata has been on the space station since March and leave next week on the Endeavour.

In Houston, for the meantime, Laliberte announced his intention to release the full details of his "social, poetic mission" in hopes of drawing attention to the world's declining water supply.

The circus performer is at Johnson Space Center this week, with Soyuz crewmates Jeffrey Williams and Maxim Suraev, to learn the emergency procedures and to become familiar with the NASA equipment.

Laliberte is the seventh space tourist, thanks to Space Adventures, which made the deals with Russian officials. Laliberte is the first professional artist going to space.


On the Net: