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Cirque du Soleil Founder Heading Into Orbit

Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte is set to become Canada's first space tourist when he travels on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in September.

Chantal Cote, a spokeswoman for the circus troupe, confirmed the trip Wednesday but would not provide further details before a press conference on Thursday.

The 49-year-old Laliberte is in Moscow for the official announcement, which will be made simultaneously at the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal.

The Quebec billionaire will become the seventh private citizen to visit the orbiting space lab since April 2001 and the third Canadian to visit the International Space Station this year. One Canadian astronaut is there now and another is expected shortly.

Past visits by paying space tourists have lasted anywhere from a week to 13 days. A trip aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is estimated to cost at least $25 million.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the circus' founding by Laliberte and fellow street performers, who revitalized the circus industry by replacing traditional animal acts with acrobats, dance and live music.

The Montreal-based circus has since grown into a sprawling global organization with $700 million in sales and more than 10 million spectators a year — and has helped Laliberte build a personal fortune estimated at $2.5 billion.

Laliberte has said in past interviews he wanted to travel into space one day. He follows other successful entrepreneurs, including California businessman Dennis Tito and American software executive Charles Simonyi.

Simonyi, the latest tourist to visit the orbiting space station, took his second trip in March, spending an estimated $60 million on the pair of space voyages.

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