Billionaire entrepreneur Guy Laliberte paid $35 million to travel aboard the Soyuz TMA-16 to the International Space Station, leaving behind his visibly shaken partner Claudia Barilla and their two children. The former model wiped away tears and managed, “I’m very happy for him. It’s amazing.”
Space Adventures announced on June 4, 2009 that Guy Laliberte would become Canada’s first space tourist aboard a Soyuz flight. He is scheduled to arrive at the orbiting ISS on Friday and will return after 12 days of orbiting 220 miles above the earth.
His is a rags to riches story, with Laliberte starting out as a street performer at age 18, backpacking across Europe with an accordion, a mouth organ, spoons, a jaw harp and less than $1,000 in his pocket. He eventually founded Cirque du Soleil–now in its 25th year. He is also a high stakes poker player and is rumored to be a potential buyer of the Montreal Canadiens hockey franchise.
Laliberte is also a philanthropist who launched ONE DROP Foundation in 2007. The international organization was funded with his $100 million contribution and will provide water in impoverished regions over a 25 year period.
Laliberte has three other children with former Brazilian partner Rizia Moreira and had a previous relationship with Naomi Campbell.
View more photos and Soyuz launch video coverage below.