Circus Billionaire Says Space Trip Worth Every Penny

Circus Billionaire Says Space Trip Worth Every Penny
Spaceflight Participant Guy Laliberté is in the foreground as the entire crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS) is seen on a screen in the Mission Control Center Moscow in Korolev, Russia shortly after the successful docking of the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft with the International Space Station Oct. 2.
(Image: © NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, an acrobat-turned-spacetourist, is getting used to floating in weightlessness on the InternationalSpace Station and said Tuesday that the trip was more than worth the multimillion-dollarprice tag.

?Yes, it?s worth every penny,? a smiling Laliberte toldreporters via a video link, adding that weightlessness has been a joy eventhough he did smack his head on the ceiling three times in one day. ?

Laliberte, the founder of the Cirque du Soleil, paid areported $35 million for his 12-day trip to space, arrivedat the orbital lab Friday. Since then he has been settling into his newhome 220 miles (354 km) above Earth and making friends with the other eightspaceflyers aboard the station.

"What I've been experiencing here has been an amazingjourney so far, from takeoff to arrival to adaptation," Laliberte saidduring Tuesday?s press conference.. "There's so much to learn, there's somuch to discover, there's so much to look at."

His trip is not just a vacation, though. Laliberte hasplanned an ambitious performanceevent for Oct. 9 to communicate the importance of water conservation, anissue he campaigns for through the ONE DROP non-profit organization he started.

Laliberte plans to use all his circus-staging skills tocoordinate a simultaneous webcast featuring himself and other artistsbroadcasting from 14 cities around the world. He and the performers will recitea poetic story about water written by Canadian author Yann Martel.

"This [is] a moment to create awareness toward thesituation of water in the world," Laliberte said. "I don?t have 25years, the world don?t have 25 years to address the situation of water."

In addition to preparing for the event, Laliberte has beenfamiliarizing himself with the space station and getting to know his crewmates.

"There's so much equipment here and it's veryimpressive and I just don?t want to knock any of those computers out," hesaid. "But day after day I get more comfortable. Plus I'm meeting somegreat people here. I'm spending the time to learn a little bit more about spaceexploration and I'm very fascinated about it."

For their part, the professional astronauts working at thestation seem to enjoy the company of a space clown.

"I don?t think that Guy Laliberte is here just forfun," said Belgian astronaut FrankDe Winne of the European Space Agency. "He's spreading a lot of awarenessthat water is a scarce resource. I think spaceflight for citizens in generalshould become more and more common. The more people that could travel to spaceand see also how vulnerable our planet could be the better it would be for ourentire planet. I encourage very much people like Guy Laliberte joining us onthese missions."

Laliberte launched on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Sept. 30 ona trip booked with the Russian Federal Space Agency through the Americancompany Space Adventures, which has brokered seven previous tourist flights.Laliberte is set to return to Earth aboard a Soyuz Oct. 11.

Laliberte is chronicling his Poetic Social Mission usingTwitter ("ONEDROPdotorg"), Facebook and the Web site: OneDrop.org.

SPACE.com is providing full coverage of the launch ofLaliberte and the Expedition 21 crew with Staff Writer Clara Moskowitz in NewYork. Click here for mission updatesand live mission coverage.

  • Video - Acrobat Space Tourist Trains for Launch
  • Video - Challenging Command: Belgian Astronaut Leads Crew of Six
  • SPACE.com Video Show - Inside the International Space Station

 

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