Guy Laliberté, the 50-year-old Canadian billionaire who is the founder and chief executive officer of the famed acrobatic troupe, Cirque du Soleil, is currently receiving training at Russia’s Star City space training center.
His trip to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft is scheduled for September 30th and will last for twelve days.
Laliberté, who hails from Quebec, Canada, began his climb to fame and fortune as an accordion player, stilt-walker and fire-eater. His incredible circus represents an amalgam of all the different circus styles around the world. In 2006, this 95% shareholder of the 1.2 billion dollar Cirque Du Soleil enterprise was named the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
In a statement issued by Roscosmos, the Russian space agency:
“Laliberte and his backup, American Barbara Barrett, will be trained to use a spacesuit and on-board means of personal hygiene, and will learn how to cook and eat in zero gravity. In addition, they will take a daily Russian language course.”
Laliberte’s mission represents the seventh such space trip, which has cost him some 35 million U.S. dollars. He informed the press that his purpose was to raise global awareness of clean water issues. One can only speculate that such a mission might be a tad easier with both feet planted firmly on the earth, but who can say?
Space Adventures and its president, Eric C. Anderson are the forces behind these journeys into outer space. Co-founded back in 1998 along with several other entrepreneurs from different arenas in industry (aerospace, entertainment, adventure travel), the company has sold more than $170 million in space tourist flights.
The programs are varied and include spaceflight missions to the International Space Station and around the moon, Zero-Gravity flights, cosmonaut training, spaceflight qualification programs and reservations on future suborbital spacecrafts.
The company’s advisory board is literally a who’s who in space travel and includes: Apollo 11 Moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, astronauts Sam Durrance, Thomas David Jones, Byron Lichtenberg, Norm Thagard, Kathy Thornton, Pierre Thuot, Charles Walker, Skylab/Shuttle astronaut Owen Garriott and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Usachev.
The very first space tourist was American software executive, Dennis Anthony Tito, who in May 2001 traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Soyuz spacecraft for a mere $20 million. South African businessman, Mark Shuttleworth, followed suit in April of 2002, becoming the first “African in space.”
The third private citizen to travel into space was Gregory Olsen who made his historic flight in 2005. The first female space tourist, Iranian-born Anousheh Ansari, followed in September of 2006.
Number five on the space travel roster goes to Charles Simonyi, a Microsoft ex-executive who managed the Office product group in April 2007. Simonyi became the first space traveler to fund his own space trip not once, but twice!
(Apparently, the expression, “money to burn”, doesn’t even come close to describing this example of personal expenditure. Surely a cure for cancer or AIDS could have been closer to discovery for the same amount of money.)
In 2008, Richard Garriott, the first second-generation U.S. astronaut and pre-eminent game developer, became Space Adventures sixth orbital space client to travel to the ISS. In 2009, Charles Simonyi did his second launch to the ISS.
Space Adventures is expected to launch its first private mission in 2011.
Who else will be on the list?