It?s showtime for space tourist Guy Laliberte, the billionaire founder of Cirque du Soleil who is poised to present the first-ever artistic performance from orbit tonight.
Laliberte, an acrobat-turned-space tourist, plans to read a poetic story from the International Space Station to spread awareness about water conservations issues. Artists in 14 cities around the world will participate through a simultaneous webcast.
The two-hour event, called "Moving Stars and Earth for Water," will be broadcast online tonight at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 Oct. 10 GMT) at Onedrop.org and AOL.com.
"I'm very proud today to say that we have a fantastic event," Laliberte said before launching into space Sept. 30. "This artistic mission permits me to raise awareness for the water issue."
In 2007 Laliberte founded the non-profit ONE DROP Foundation, which aims to fight world poverty by advocating for global access to clean water.
Laliberte is paying more than $35 million to Russia for an 11-day trip to the space station under a deal brokered by the U.S. firm Space Adventures and Russia?s Federal Space Agency. He is the seventh preson to pay for the multimillion-dollar trek to the orbiting laboratory, but the first professional artist.
Friday's performance will feature a poetic tale written especially for the occasion by Canadian writer Yann Martel, author of "Life of Pi." Former United States Vice President Al Gore, actor Matthew McConaughey, singer Peter Gabriel, actress Salma Hayek, singer Shakira, and the band U2 will take turns reading sections of the poem from locations around the world.
"It's going to be a celebrity event - between U2 and Al Gore and all the folks that are going to be talking, it's going to be really interesting," Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson told SPACE.com Thursday.
The performance will begin with Laliberte in space, then rotate through segments in Montreal; Johannesburg/Durban, South Africa; Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Paris; Mexico City; New York; Sydney, Australia; London; Marrakech, Morocco; Mumbai, India; Osaka, Japan; Santa Monica, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; and Moscow. Laliberte recruited a cadre of friends, artists and activists to help spread the message that Earth's water is scarce and precious.
"The exploration of space has featured a search for places where water can be found," Gore said in a video about the event at OneDrop.org. "And part of what's so beautiful and special about our planet is that we have so much water." But since much of Earth's water is salt water, the valuable fresh water we have must be protected, he said.
Laliberte?s globe-spanning performance comes just before his planned to departure from the International Space Station. He is due to leave the orbiting laboratory late Saturday and return to Earth alongside two professional astronauts ? an American and a Russian ? early Sunday.
During his stay on orbit Laliberte has been lightening the mood for his fellow spaceflyers by sharing practical jokes and red clown noses for everyone to wear.
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