Cirque confirms Laliberte to be first Canadian space tourist


QUEBEC – Cirque du Soleil confirmed Wednesday that its founder, Quebec billionaire Guy Laliberte, will expand his horizons by exploring outer space this fall.

Cirque publicist Tania Ormejuste said Laliberte will become the first Canadian private explorer to rocket into space aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft in September.

“Mr. Laliberte is in Moscow getting ready for this,” said Ormejuste.

Details of what is billed as the “first philanthropic” mission to the International Space Station will be made public Thursday at a news conference held simultaneously in Moscow and at Canadian Space Agency headquarters on the south shore of Montreal.

Laliberte will become the third Canadian to enter orbit this year. Just last week, Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk rocketed into space for a six-month mission, the longest stay for a Canadian.

During Thirsk’s stay, Canadian astronaut Julie Payette will also visit the space station during her own 16-day mission on space shuttle Endeavour that begins June 13. This will be the first time two Canadians will be in space simultaneously.

The Quebec billionaire, who started off as a stilt-walker and created a global entertainment empire, could pay an estimated $35 million for his trip to space, judging by amounts paid by previous space tourists.