October 1, 2009

We're sending clowns into space now

Space travel is no joke, unless you're the Russian Space Program, and you need the money, and the rich founder of a circus wants to go up to the International Space Station.

MONTREAL (AFP) – Cirque du Soleil's founder, who will soon rocket into space, went from pauper to circus mogul by turning a troupe of ragtag street performers in 1984 into a global entertainment empire.

At 0714 GMT Wednesday, Canadian Guy Laliberte will celebrate his recent 50th birthday by becoming the seventh space tourist to rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan to the International Space Station for a 12-day "poetic, social mission."

Near the end of his 35-million-dollar trip, on October 9, he will direct a "planetary artistic event" in 14 cities on five continents.

The social dimension will be represented by his One Drop foundation, which works to improve access to water resources and to raise awareness of water-related issues.

"I've been introduced in a number of different ways in the past -- as a fire-eater, an artist, an entrepreneur, an entertainer, and I have to admit that (now) being introduced as a space explorer is quite something for me," he told a news conference in June.

"I am profoundly touched by this," he said, recalling a television interview during the Cirque's early years in which he quipped: "One day I hope I can take the Cirque du Soleil into space."

This guy likes to play practical jokes - which could be a problem if he puts one of those exploding cans of fake snakes in someone's space suit.

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