Image: Guy Laliberte
Dmitry Kostyukov  /  AFP - Getty Images
Candian billionaire space tourist and founder of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte spoke with wonder about his two-week voyage in space, calling his experience an amazing ride.
updated 10/13/2009 3:56:53 PM ET 2009-10-13T19:56:53

Guy Laliberte, a billionaire who once worked as a stilt-walker and fire-eater, said Tuesday that he accomplished his mission by using a 10-day trip to the International Space Station to promote a humanitarian cause.

The Canadian Cirque du Soleil founder — dubbed the first clown in space — said his $35 million trip was an effective "marketing tool to put the One Drop Foundation on the map."

The nonprofit group promotes access to clean water worldwide, and Laliberte advanced that cause by hosting a global Web broadcast that featured rock stars and politicians.

Among those appearing on the Oct. 9 Web broadcast from Earth were former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, U2 and Shakira. Laliberte had billed his trip into space as a "poetical social mission."

"Mission accomplished," Laliberte told reporters at the cosmonaut training center outside Moscow. "I still have to evaluate the impact internationally, but so far it looks like a great success."

The one-time stilt-walker and fire-eater — who wore a bulbous clown nose aboard the International Space Station, said he experienced only one scary moment during the his return trip to Earth, as the Soyuz capsule re-entered the atmosphere and plunged toward the planet.

Laliberte landed in the barren northern steppe of Kazakhstan Sunday with NASA astronaut Michael Barratt and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who spent six months aboard the space station.

At Tuesday's news conference, Barratt pointed out that he was for a time one of two physicians aboard the orbiting laboratory. "Having two doctors aboard was a bit dangerous for the crew," he joked in Russian.

Top 10 antics in outer spacePadalka jokingly told reporters that the crew aboard the space station enjoyed "complete freedom and democracy, except for anarchy," during Laliberte's stay there.

"Surprisingly, everything went smoothly," he said adding that the crew ate lunch in the Russian segment of the space station and dinner in the U.S. segment.

The mammoth station consists of 10 modules built by the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and the 18-nation European Space Agency.

Laliberte may be among the last space tourists for several years, with NASA planning to retire its shuttle fleet next year. After that, it would rely on Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the station — meaning fewer extra seats for trips to the orbiting lab.

"The crew now consists of six people, and all the seats have been taken by professional cosmonauts," the head of the cosmonaut training center, Sergei Krikalyov, said Tuesday.

In June, Google co-founder and Russian native Sergei Brin said he paid $5 million to reserve a flight in 2011 to the space station.

Quebec-born Laliberte, 50, founded Cirque du Soleil in 1984, and is worth an estimated $2.5 billion.

He is the second of three Canadians to orbit the Earth in the same year. Robert Thirsk has been aboard the space station since May, and two-time space traveler Julie Payette is scheduled to join him in December.

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