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Soyuz blasts off for ISS with circus founder

September 30, 2009 - KAZAKHSTAN

When Soyuz TMA-16 blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, it will be carrying the seventh and possibly the last space tourist to the International Space Station. The Canadian Cirque du Soleil founder, Guy Laliberte, will be occupying the third seat in the spacecraft, which, once the NASA shuttle is retired, will be needed to rotate the six-member ISS crews. Russian supermarket mogul and Duma member Vladimir Gruzdev had been named, but bowed out. Some reports say he was outbid by Laliberte.

Cirque du Soleil is in talks with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to televize Laliberte's unprecedented live show from space and 14 cities around the world on Oct 9. Laliberte, who will spend nine days aboard the lab complex before returning to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-14 capsule on Oct 11, is reported to be paying US $35 million for the visit in a deal with Space Adventures Ltd. TMA-16 carries Maxim Suraev, a colonel in the Russian air force, as commander and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Williams, on his second long-duration voyage on the station. They will remain on board as part of the Expedition 21 crew. Outgoing station commander Gennady Padalka and NASA flight engineer Michael Barratt will return with Laliberte on Oct 11. Jul/09

Cirque du Soleil founder to be next space tourist (Reuters 23 Jul 2009)

Date written/update: 2009-09-30