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First clown in space hosts show to save Earth's water

 Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte is pictured in the Unity node of the International Space Station in this photo taken October 5, 2009 and released by NASA October 8, 2009. REUTERS/NASA/Handout - Reuters
Canadian spaceflight participant Guy Laliberte is pictured in the Unity node of the International Space Station in this photo taken October 5, 2009 and released by NASA October 8, 2009. REUTERS/NASA/Handout
— image credit: Reuters

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Wearing a red clown nose, the Canadian founder of Cirque du Soleil hosted an out-of-this-world performance event on Friday, saying he wanted to use his trip as a space tourist to highlight the scarcity of water on Earth.

Guy Laliberte's two-hour performance event called "Moving Stars and Earth for Water" linked the International Space Station with singers, dancers and celebrity campaigners in 14 world cities in what organizers called the first event of its kind to be hosted from space.

"I see stars, I see darkness and emptiness. But planet Earth looks so great, and also so fragile," Laliberte said from the International Space Station, where he has spent the past week after paying $35 million to fly on a Russian spacecraft and become the world's seventh space tourist.

"I decided to use this privilege to raise awareness of water issues," he said. "I believe that with true art and emotion we can convey a message."

Irish singer Bono, chatting with Laliberte from a U2 concert in Florida, called the former street performer "the first clown in space."

Former U.S. vice president and environmental campaigner Al Gore gave a video presentation on global warming and Brazilian singer songwriter Gilberto Gil sang in Rio de Janeiro.

Cirque du Soleil acrobats gave water-themed performances from Montreal and Las Vegas and dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet performed from Moscow in a show streamed on the Internet and broadcast on satellite TV in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Laliberte, 50, whose money-spinning circus shows around the world have made him a billionaire, launched his Montreal-based nonprofit One Drop Foundation in 2007 to increase access to clean water worldwide.

Millions of people in developing countries do not have access to clean water, and water-borne illnesses are a persistent problem in many impoverished regions.

During the show, online viewers from as far away as Argentina, Australia and India were asked to sign "make a difference" pledges to cut back on bottled water, install water saving devices in toilets and make other environmental savings.

Organizers said the event was aimed more at awareness raising than fund raising.

"I thank you for joining the ripple effect," Laliberte said, ending what he called his "poetic social mission" with a slow-motion shot of droplets of drinking water in the micro-gravity atmosphere of the space station.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

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