Cirque du Soleil founder set to blast into space

 Guy Laliberté

Space Adventures today said Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil has started astronaut training for a flight to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 30, 2009.

Private space exploration company Space Adventures set up the flight which will last 12-days.  He will be joining the Soyuz TMA-16 crew that includes Russian cosmonaut Maksim Surayev and NASA astronaut Jeffery Williams. The launch is scheduled for September 30, 2009.  Space Adventures has set up other space flights for the likes of  tech-industry guru Esther Dyson, ex-Microsoft developer Charles Simonyi and computer game entrepreneur Richard Garriott. 

Laliberté describes his upcoming space flight as a poetic social mission designed to help raise awareness for his ONE DROP Foundation which promotes clean drinking water initiatives across the globe. He also said Cirque du Soleil will be introduced to Russia this year so the timing will be right.

"I have been described as many things throughout my 25 years with Cirque du Soleil. Fire-breather, entrepreneur, street smart, creative," said Laliberté. "I am honored and humbled today with my new description: humanitarian space explorer. Traveling has always been my way of life and I have been researching the possibilities of space travel with Space Adventures since 2004. But I needed it to be the right time and for the right purpose. This is the time," he said.  

High-profile flights are also designed to draw more people to commercial space flight.  Earlier this year a space flight fare war of sorts was declared as some of the major groups that will soon offer suborbital space flight have lopped off 50% or more to attract flyers.

Of course such fare wars are unlikely to start a stampede into space as we're still talking on average about $200,000. But RocketShip Tours and XCOR Aerospace recently said the cost of their suborbital space flight, which will begin operation in 2010 will be $95,000. This includes a five-night stay at a luxury resort, complete training, medical evaluation and screening, cancellation insurance and, of course, the flight itself, the company said. Reportedly about 20 customers have already signed up to take the flight.

Virgin Galactic, founded by entrepreneur, Richard Branson, is currently offering a similar experience for $200,000. Other space flight groups such as Space Adventures can charge $3 to $5 million for space flights. 

Layer 8 in a box

Check out these other hot stories:

US shells out $10M for unmanned aircraft that can perch like a bird

Inside the Top 10 hot aerospace technologies

CIA wants more foreign language skills in a big way

MySpace confession nets one dim bank robber

X PRIZE lunar spacecraft competition flies into economic realities

Six high-tech "less-lethal" weapons that could ruin your day

Ballmer gets his new car delivered by Ford CEO

Robotic garage pulls a HAL, traps dog, man in car

The 10-year satellite forecast: Fewer, but bigger things flying over your head

Inside the world of bad-ass military research projects

FTC targets massive car warranty robocall scheme

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey 2021: The results are in