Craft carrying circus tycoon reaches space station

October 2, 2009 By MANSUR MIROVALEV , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A Russian spacecraft docked Friday at the International Space Station to drop off Canadian circus billionaire Guy Laliberte - dubbed the first clown in space - along with an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut.

Two days after launching, the Soyuz TMA-16 capsule linked smoothly and on schedule with the space station orbiting 220 miles (355 kilometers) above the Earth.

Laliberte's five children and partner Claudia Barilla broke into applause after watching the ship dock on a giant screen at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow.

"Congratulations!" station commander Gennady Padalka said from inside the orbiting outpost.

Laliberte, the 50-year-old founder of Cirque du Soleil, reportedly paid $35 million to become the world's seventh . He may be the last for several years, however, as NASA retires its shuttle program and relies on Russia to ferry U.S. to the lab - limiting capsule space.

Laliberte, cosmonaut Maxim Surayev and astronaut Jeffrey Williams were joining the station's current crew of six a few hours after docking, when hatches linking the station with the Soyuz are opened.

An experienced acrobat, fire-eater and stilt-walker, Laliberte said he would wear a clown nose aboard the station, and brought several more for his crew mates to try on. He also warned he would tickle them while they sleep.

But he has a serious mission for the trip as well - delivering a message to Earth about the planet's growing shortage of clean water. He planned to read a poem dedicated to water conservation in a satellite linkup to be shown in 14 cities from Oct. 9. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, pop singer Peter Gabriel and Irish rock group U2 will also participate.

Quebec-born Laliberte, who is worth an estimated $2.5 billion, returns to Earth on Oct. 11 with two of the station's current crew members aboard one of three Soyuz crafts now docked at the station.

Third-time space traveler Williams, 51, and first-timer Surayev, 37, plan to stay in orbit for 169 days.

"We are really proud of him," said Surayev's wife, Anna, who watched the docking along with their two daughters. "Glad his dream came true, because it took him 12 years to achieve it."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: ISS crew prepares for repositioning

Related Stories

ISS crew prepares for repositioning

March 13, 2007

The Expedition 14 crew aboard the International Space Station was making final preparations Wednesday for a repositioning rocket firing.

Circus performer's flight preview steals NASA show

July 23, 2009

(AP) -- A former stiltwalker and fire-eater stole NASA's show Thursday, saying he'll be "like a kid in a candy store" experimenting with zero-gravity tricks on his upcoming tourist trip to the international space station.

Rocket readied at Kazakh steppe for ISS mission

September 28, 2009

(AP) -- Workers at Russia's manned space-launch facility lifted to the launch pad on Monday a rocket that is to send Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte and two astronauts to the International Space Station.

Canadian circus billionaire heads to space station

September 30, 2009

(AP) -- A Canadian circus tycoon, an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off in a spacecraft from the Kazakh steppe Wednesday on a journey to the International Space Station.

Recommended for you

Galaxies show appetite for growth

August 4, 2015

The extent to which galaxies consume one another has been revealed in research. Findings from the study help to explain how galaxies such as the Milky Way were formed.

Will SETI's unprecedented new program finally find E.T.?

August 4, 2015

Stephen Hawking, Frank Drake and dozens of journalists gathered at the Royal Society in London last week to hear astronomers announce a ground-breaking new project to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life called "Breakthrough ...

Tracking a mysterious group of asteroid outcasts

August 4, 2015

High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks. These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced you-FROH-seh-nee) ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.