Canadian ‘Space Clown’ Takes His Act Into Orbit
Baikonur, Kazakhstan. A Canadian circus tycoon, an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut blasted off in a spacecraft from the Kazakh steppe on Wednesday on a journey to the International Space Station.
Minutes after lifting off from the Baikonur launch facility, the Soyuz capsule shed its rocket stages and entered orbit.
On board were Cirque du Soleil founder and space tourist Guy Laliberte, along with crew members Jeffrey Williams and Maxim Surayev.
Friends and family on the ground cheered and hugged one another when an announcement that the ship was in orbit came over the loudspeaker.
They chanted “Guy! Guy!” and broke out singing Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
Laliberte, dubbed the first clown in space, had donned a bulbous red nose and blew kisses to supporters before the launch.
He has paid $35 million for the trip he plans to use to publicize the world’s growing shortage of clean water.
“I’m very happy for him. It’s amazing,” said Laliberte’s partner, former model Claudia Barilla, tears streaming down her face as she cradled her son in her arms. “Now we know he’s up there.’’
She wore a yellow clown nose as she watched the launch.
Laliberte brought several clown noses for crew mates aboard the station and has jokingly warned them that he would tickle them while they slept on board the shuttle.
Footage of the capsule showed crew members Williams and Surayev strapped in, operating the controls and occasionally waving for the camera.