Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte says he is nervous but very excited about blasting into space later this year on what he calls a "poetic social mission" to raise awareness about water issues.

Laliberte told a news conference from Moscow Thursday that he will take off with a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut on Sept. 30.

He is scheduled to spend 12 days on the International Space Station, where he will hook up with Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk.

Expensive trip

The Montreal billionaire says it will cost him around $35 million US to go to the station.

Six previous space tourists paid about the same amount when they booked through Space Adventures of Virginia.

"I think you said a price that's pretty similar to those that were recently negotiated," said Laliberte, who has a confidentiality agreement preventing him from divulging the exact amount.

The money will go to the Russian space agency.

The 49-year-old Laliberte has long been fascinated by space travel and humanitarian issues.

He's the founder of the One Drop Foundation, whose goal is to fight poverty around the world by providing sustainable access to safe water.

"My mission is dedicated to making a difference on this vital resource by using what I know best: artistry," Laliberte said. "This will be the first poetic social mission in space."

Reunion in space

Laliberte will become the third Canadian to visit the International Space Station this year.

fellow Montrealer Julie Payette will be visiting the giant orbiting lab before Laliberte.

She is tentatively scheduled to blast off June 13 on a 16-day mission aboard the U.S. space shuttle Endeavour.

Laliberte will become the seventh private citizen to visit the orbiting space lab since April 2001.

Past visits by paying space tourists have lasted anywhere from a week to 12 days.

- With Files from The Canadian Press -