Moscow, Sept. 3 (Reuters): Russia’s space agency has scrapped plans by ’N Sync singer Lance Bass to join an October space mission after the US pop star failed to meet payment deadlines, a spokesman for the agency said today.
Bass, 23, would have become the youngest person in space. He was told to leave the Star City training centre outside Moscow, where he was preparing to join a mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
“After failing to fulfil the conditions of his contract, Lance Bass has been told that his training at the Cosmonaut Training Centre has ended and that his flight to the ISS is impossible,” spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said. Bass, backed by a consortium of companies rounded up by a Hollywood producer, had already missed initial deadlines to come up with the agreed fee, reported to be up to $20 million.
“We are preparing to send a cargo container to the ISS instead of a third crew member,” Gorbunov said. “Bass is now at Star City, gathering his stuff and preparing to leave.”
Bass's publicist Jill Fritzo said there was still hope the star could solve the dispute with Russia’s space agency.
“The trip is not over. Lance is in Russia and we are still in negotiations,” Fritzo said from New York. “We feel very confident that there will be a resolution soon and the trip will go on as planned.” Mir Corp, the company brokering Bass’ flight, said it was confident he could still secure a seat aboard the Soyuz.
“Discussions are still continuing,” Gert Weyers, a spokesman for Mir Corp, said from Amsterdam. “I believe that we can be very confident that we will reach a solution at short notice, allowing the programme to continue. Lance Bass is still extremely committed.”
Bass would have been the third space enthusiast to pay his way into space after US millionaire Dennis Tito and South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who blasted off from Russia’s space base in Kazakhstan.
US space authorities had expressed worries that Bass was ill-prepared for the flight and could disturb work at the station. Bass began preparing for the October Soyuz flight in the spring, allowing himself training time just short of the six months demanded by the ISS protocol.
But cash-strapped Russia said it needed the payment to service its fleet of Soyuz craft. The fee for a single tourist is enough to cover the entire cost of launching a manned craft.
The October Soyuz mission will now go ahead with only Russian commander Sergei Zalyotin and Belgian flight engineer Frank DeWinne.
Bass is not the first pop star to nurture space dreams, after Russian pop group Na-Na bid to become the first to give a concert from orbit last year. Na-Na also underwent training, but never made it into space.