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4 Jun, 2009 23:04

From stilts and eating fire to heading into space

The name of the next space tourist has become public - the founder and CEO of the world famous Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, announced publicy Thursday by the international company Space Adventures.

Laliberte will become Canada’s first space tourist when he takes off aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in September.

Although the news was officially  a secret, multiple unofficial sources had already said: he’s the one. The first report appeared on the “NASA Watch” website founded by a former NASA employee.

“About two hours after initial press reports that it was a Canadian entrepreneur who would be flying in space, I started getting phone calls from people in the industry and it was rather quick that we found out that it was him. It’s just listening to who he was – he fit the profile perfectly of someone who not only has the means, but the interest, to fly into space,” Keith Cowing, the editor of “NASA Watch” said.

Space Circus

Although still early in the training process, Guy Laliberte already demonstrates a basic knowledge of Russian, showing off expressions such as “commander”, “thank you” and “good morning” during a media conference.

“I will go through a training phase which is one of the shortest ones in all space travel history, so I know I’m facing very intensive things,” Laliberte told RT.

“In reality, so far I only feel excitement,” he added.

The space tourist-to-be is also excited about telling stories of space to his five children.

But Laliberte’s trip into orbit will not only be done for his personal enjoyment. Having been a fire-eater, a performer and a successful entrepreneur, he is now trying out a new role – that of a “humanitarian space explorer”, as he, himself, puts it.

Being the self-appointed “first artist in space”, Laliberte will try to put forward his findings about the problems which Earth faces. His cause has been named the “Poetic Social Mission”. According to Laliberte, the money which was used to fund the trip could not have been better spent:

“The result and the impact of creating this awareness will be over and above the value of what I’m spending on my trip. And, as a bonus, I will have the pleasure of going into space.”

The riches

According to Forbes magazine, 49-year old Laliberte is one of the 50 richest billionaires in the world, with a net worth of 2.5 billion US dollars. In 2004 he was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

This year, the billionaire is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his founding of the Cirque du Soleil in 1984, which followed stints as his being an accordionist, a stilt-walker and a fire-eater.

“I think that the main difference between this flight and the previous flights will be that there will be such an enthusiastic person. He is from Canada and there have been no space tourists from Canada, so he will be the first private explorer from Canada. I think it will be very nice,” said Pavel S. Sharov, Editor of “News of the Space World” magazine

The world’s eyes will be glued to TV screens in September following the 7th space tourist’s visit to the International Space Station.

The ticket price to the International Space Station will not be cheap. The cost of the flight is going up and has topped 35 million dollars.

Two-time space tourist Charles Simony forked out this sum for his second trip in April.

But Guy Laliberte is no stranger to big Russian events – his Cirque du Soleil wowed audiences at the Eurovision song contest in Moscow last month.