Canadian billionaire space tourist Guy Laliberte spoke with wonder Tuesday about his two-week voyage in space, calling his experience an amazing ride while admitting he had on occasion felt queasy.
“Everything was an amazing ride and I would go back up there right now to do it again,” Laliberte, the 50-year-old founder of circus show Cirque du Soleil, told a press conference at Star City outside Moscow.
Laliberte landed on Sunday after blasting off from Baikonur in the Soyuz space craft on September 30 and docking at the International Space Station (ISS).
Smiling broadly, Laliberte called his trip “mission accomplished.” He spoke flanked by US astronaut Michael Barratt and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka who had both returned to earth after long stints on the station.
Laliberte spoke eloquently about the return voyage, calling it the “ride of my lifetime.”
“The moment that you eject is the moment you realise there is no way back. Going down, you go through blue layers and you know you are actually back in the atmosphere.
“You start to see the sparks for the first time and there’s all these colours, and it’s an amazing spectacle,” Laliberte said at the news conference carried live on state television.
He described the ascent as “more an emotional and spiritual experience of going somewhere.”
Laliberte admitted he felt unwell during the ascent. “It was scary. It was a new emotion, a new feeling I was going through,” he said. But he said he “adapted very well” to being in space.
He said his first steps in weightlessness aboard the international space station were “very, very careful,” saying he was afraid of damaging equipment, but that later he was “able to play and be in a playful environment.”
“I had a very good time there,’ Laliberte said.
A former fire-eater and stiltwalker, Laliberte is the seventh person to spend millions of dollars from a personal fortune to go into space.
Two days before landing, Laliberte presided over an artistic event that took place in 14 cities around the world and was designed to draw attention to water conservation.
“It seems to have been a great success and I’m very pleased about that,” Laliberte said.
In a controversial interview published in April, veteran cosmonaut Padalka talked of tensions between the Americans and Russians over sharing facilities on the ISS.
Speaking Tuesday, Padalka played down any disharmony. “We had different nationalities and habits but we lived according to the rules of freedom and democracy,” he said.
The crew had lunch together in the Russian side and dinner on the American side and listened to music and watched films in their spare time, Padalka said.
Speaking fluent Russian, Barratt commented that “spending seven months of weightlessness is a serious business.”
He said that he lifted his mood by staying in touch with his family and spoke to his 8-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter every two or three days using an Internet protocol telephone.
Remembering the moment when the crew landed back on Earth, Barratt said: “I remember the smell of grass was very pleasant.”
Barratt was picked by NASA as a crew member for the last scheduled space shuttle mission next year. He called this a “surprise” on Tuesday