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September 11, 2009

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Using space for water awareness

THE founder of Cirque du Soleil said yesterday he'll be taking some reading material to the International Space Station this month. Not that he's worried about being bored, but he wants to read it to the denizens of Earth.

Guy Laliberte wants to use his US$35 million trip to promote his concerns about the world's water supply.

"I'm bringing a text that will be delivered to planet Earth ... for creating awareness about the water situation on Earth," the Canadian billionaire told reporters at the Russian astronaut training center in Star City near Moscow.

He said the reading would be part of a string of shows in 14 cities around the world beginning on October 9. Former US Vice President Al Gore, pop singer Peter Gabriel and Irish rock group U2 have confirmed their participation.

Laliberte is to blast off for the space station on September 30 aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

His crew mates said the items they would bring to the International Space Station would be more personal.

Russian astronaut Maxim Surayev said his mascot will be a plush lion that will hang in front of him after the takeoff to signal the beginning of weightlessness.

His preteen daughters kept the toy under their pillows in turns to "make sure the lion smells of home for the next six months."

US astronaut Jeffrey Williams, a two-time space traveler, said he will have a photo of his family and infant grandson born a month ago.

Williams and Surayev plan to stay in orbit for 169 days, while Laliberte will return to Earth after 12 days in space. Last week, he said he would try to persuade his fellow spacemen to don red clown noses; he is taking nine of them into orbit.

Williams said the team will complete the assembly of the ISS.

The station's on-orbit construction began in 1998, and six shuttle flights remain to wrap it up.


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