It’s hard to imagine a clown being a billionaire, but here he is. In reality he’s far more, but a Soyuz spacecraft carrying Canadian Guy Laliberte and two crew mates lifted off on schedule Wednesday headed for the International Space Station, while his partner, former model Claudia Barilla, watched with tears streaming down her face.

While the headlines read “billionaire clown,” Guy Laliberte, 50, is actually the founder of Cirque du Soleil. And while billed as a “circus” there are no animals and it’s really about acrobats and clowns. The Soyuz craft, lifting off from the Kazakh steppe, also carried U.S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Surayev.

Friends and family cheered and sang Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as the announcement came that the ship had reached orbit. Claudia Barilla said, “I’m very happy for him. It’s amazing. Now we know he’s up there.”

Laliberte paid $35 million for his trip and plans to use it to help publicize the world’s growing shortage of clean water. The Soyuz is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station, orbiting 220 miles above Earth, on Friday.

At first, Claudia Barilla told Guy Laliberte to “go for it,” he reportedly said. However, you can imagine, as they have 5 children together, the stress and nervousness began to overtake her as the time of launch approached. Still, in his honor, Barilla wore a yellow clown nose as she watched the launch.

Laliberte will return to Earth after 12 days in space, to the welcome arms of Claudia Barilla and children, I’m sure. Williams and Surayev plan to stay in orbit for 169 days.

Originally on SNAFU-ed


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