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Founder of Cirque du Soleil to be 1st Canadian Private Space Explorer

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Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil and the One Drop Foundation, has begun training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City in preparation for his poetic social mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

“I have been described as many things throughout my 25 years with Cirque du Soleil. Fire-breather, entrepreneur, street smart, creative,” said Mr. 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. And the purpose is clear: to raise awareness on water issues to humankind on planet earth. My mission is dedicated to making a difference on this vital resource by using what I know best: artistry. This will be the first poetic social mission in space. This is also a very symbolic time for me to be in Star City since, after 25 years, Cirque du Soleil will be introduced to Russia! The timing could not be more appropriate!”

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.

Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, the company that provides human space missions to the world marketplace, said, “I have known Guy for several years. He has been a member of our Orbital Mission Explorers Circle; and since our very first discussions with him, he has wanted to travel in space for a purpose. I believe that his poetic social mission truly realizes his intentions and provides him the opportunity to express his vision in a unique way. We are proud to be able to assist him in making his dream a reality.”

During his 12-day stay at the ISS, Mr. Laliberté will share information about water issues in the world through a singular poetic approach. The messages he transmits will raise awareness for One Drop Foundation initiatives that promote Water for all, all for water.

Guy Laliberté was born in Quebec City in 1959. An accordionist, stilt-walker and fire-breather, he founded Quebec's first internationally renowned circus with the support of a small group of accomplices. A bold visionary, Guy Laliberté recognized and cultivated the talents of the street performers from the Fête foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul and created Cirque du Soleil in 1984.

Since the very beginnings of Cirque du Soleil, Guy has insisted on having a social approach as part of the development of the company. Keenly aware that Cirque could play a role as agent of change, over 15 years ago, he created Cirque du Monde, an arts education program for street kids all over the world. He also chose to set up the International Headquarters and creative studios of Cirque du Soleil in the St. Michel district of Montreal, one of the poorest neighborhoods in North America, to stimulate a sense of local pride and ensure the revitalization of the area through artistic stimulation. This paved the way to TOHU, Cité des arts du Cirque, a project he initiated in the same neighborhood. Since early on he has also dedicated 1% of all revenues generated by Cirque du Soleil to social and cultural programs worldwide.

Guy was the first to orchestrate the marriage of cultures and artistic and acrobatic disciplines that is the hallmark of Cirque du Soleil. Since 1984, he has guided the creative team through the creation of every show and contributed to elevating the circus arts to the level of the great artistic disciplines.

In October 2007, Guy Laliberté entered into a second lifetime commitment by creating the One Drop Foundation to fight poverty around the world by providing sustainable access to safe water. This new initiative stems from the knowledge that the right to water is key to the survival of individuals and communities all over the world. It is inspired by the values which have been at the heart of Cirque du Soleil since its inception: the belief that life gives back what you have given and even the smallest gesture will make a difference.

It is believed that the price tag for the journey is somewhere between 20 and 40 million dollars.

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