Cirque du Soleil chief outlines 'poetic' space mission

Founder Guy Laliberté plans to stage a global extravaganza during his stay aboard the International Space Station next month to raise awareness of water issues.

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, training for a flight to the International Space Station next month, said Wednesday he plans to orchestrate a five-continent extravaganza as part of his "poetic social mission" to raise awareness of water as a critical cultural and environmental issue.

"As soon as I arrive on board of the International Space Station, I will actively prepare my segment of a planetary artistic event that will happen on October 9, two days before I land back on Earth," Laliberté said during a Webcast from Moscow.

Guy Laliberté, in a lighter moment, clowns around during training for launch to the International Space Station. Space Adventures Ltd.

"On October 9, for 120 minutes--just a little longer in time than it takes to circle the Earth in space--we will be presenting a unique artistic event in 14 cities on five continents and space. Beginning in Montreal, closing in Moscow, we will travel the world, unveiling part of a poetic tale to a voice of international personality. We will also be presenting...artistic presentations linked to water as an inspiration and as a source of life."

Among those Laliberté said had agreed to participate are former Vice President Al Gore, U2, Shakira, Canadian astronaut Julie Payette, and Peter Gabriel. The theme of the production is "Moving Stars and Earth for Water."

"They will take part in the event either by reading part of the poetic tale, performing, or sharing an artistic work," Laliberté said. "At the heart of the mission is a poetic tale.

"People will have access to a great poem, a great tale that will star the moon, the sun, and a drop of water," he said.

The program will focus on the "life sustaining powers of water, the importance of water in agriculture and food security, water pollution...access to water as a human right, the crisis of melting polar ice caps, the infinite fragility, and beauty of the blue planet," he said.

"I truly believe that through art, an artistic event, you can touch the heart of people. I truly believe that through emotion, it stays longer in the head and soul of people. And then change can take place."

By coincidence or not, October 9 also is the day NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is scheduled to crash into a permanently shadowed crater near the moon's south pole in a dramatic project to look for signs of water ice in the lunar soil. Soil and debris blasted from the surface by the impact of LCROSS, and its Centaur upper stage booster will be studied by other spacecraft to determine if ice is, in fact, present.

Laliberté's production is scheduled to begin roughly 12 hours later, at 8 p.m. EDT, in Montreal; Moscow; Santa Monica, Calif.; New York City; Johannesburg; Mumbai, India; Marrakesh, Morocco; Sydney; Tokyo; Tampa, Fla.; Mexico City; Rio de Janeiro; Paris; London; and the International Space Station.

"Every special event in each city will feature an artistic performance, a poetic tale reader, and some videography of the artistic elements of water," Laliberté said. "In my 25 years at Cirque du Soleil, I've met and worked with some amazing artists, individuals, and leaders. I knew that I could call on them when the time was right. I am so impressed that they have generously (agreed) to participate in my mission."

Laliberté, a Canadian worth an estimated $2.5 billion, is believed to be paying upward of $35 million to visit the International Space Station as a "spaceflight participant," or space tourist, in a deal with the Russian space agency arranged through Space Adventures.

He is scheduled for launch September 30 aboard the Soyuz TMA-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. His crewmates will be rookie spacecraft commander Maxim Suraev, a colonel in the Russian air force; and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, a shuttle veteran making his second long-duration voyage on the station.

Laliberté will spend nine days aboard the lab complex before returning to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule October 11 with outgoing station commander Gennady Padalka and NASA flight engineer Michael Barratt. Williams and Suraev will remain aboard the space station as part of the Expedition 21 crew.

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About the author

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He has covered more than 125 shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune, and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia." You can follow his frequent status updates at the CBS News Space page.

     

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