By Aydar Buribayev
KOROLYOV, Russia (Reuters) - Canadian circus billionaire Guy Laliberte, dubbed the first clown in space, arrived at the International Space Station in a Russian space craft on Friday for a 10-day stay that cost over $35 million.
A camera on board the Soyuz module, crewed by a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut, showed the space station slowly come into view on a giant screen at mission control in the town of Korolyov near Moscow.
"We have contact," a Russian official said, prompting applause from watching relatives.
Laliberte, a former fire-breather and founder of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, plans to use the trip to draw attention to the importance of access to clean water on Earth.
He is due to hold a two-hour webcast on October 9 linking 14 cities across the world and featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Irish rock group U2 and others, according to his One Drop Foundation website.
The 50-year-old is worth an estimated $2.5 billion, having turned a passion for acrobatics and circus acts into a global entertainment empire.
He paid more than $35 million for the privilege of becoming Earth's seventh space tourist, and posed for cameras wearing a clown's red nose before blasting off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Laliberte, who will leave the ISS on October 10, was accompanied on his outbound journey by a Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut.
The expansion of the ISS resident crew from three to six has cut the number of available seats for would-be tourists on scheduled Soyuz rocket flights.
Space Adventures, the company which markets the flights, says it does not know when the Russian space agency will next have a free seat to take a space tourist.
Russia has borne the brunt of sending crews and cargo to the multinational ISS since the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry in 2003, killing its crew of seven.
The Soyuz workload will increase further with the expected retirement of the U.S. space agency's shuttle fleet in late 2010 or early 2011.
(Writing by Matt Robinson and Conor Humphries; editing by Michael Roddy)