10/11/2011 10:13 EDT | Updated 12/11/2011 05:12 EST

Canadians Laliberte, Hadfield to help judge Google space contest for students

TORONTO - Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte and astronaut Chris Hadfield are among the Canadian judges for YouTube Space Lab, a Google-run contest that's encouraging young students to dream up experiments to be performed in space.

Students in two age groups, 14 to 16 and 17 to 18, will compete for a number of prizes, including a chance to undergo real astronaut training in Star City, Russia, where Russian cosmonauts are schooled.

And the two winning experiments will be conducted about 400 kilometres above Earth aboard the International Space Station and streamed live on YouTube.

Students, either alone or in groups of up to three, are being tasked with creating a two-minute video that explains their hypothesis and experiment.

A number of regional finalists will be flown to Washington, D.C. in March 2012 and will get to experience a ZERO-G flight simulating a weightless environment.

The winners in each age group also get to choose either astronaut training or a trip to Tanegashima Island, Japan to watch their experiment leave Earth on a rocket bound for the ISS.

Laliberte became the first Canadian space tourist in 2009, paying US$35 million for the experience. Hadfield, who was the first Canadian astronaut to perform a spacewalk, is scheduled to travel to the ISS next year in a capsule atop a Soyuz rocket.

Other judges include British scientist Stephen Hawking.

Applications are being accepted through Dec. 7. More information is available at