- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

Boy-band star Lance Bass has dreamed about flying in space.

Those younger than 25 or with children probably know that Mr. Bass is a member of the pop group 'N Sync. But now he also hopes to fly to the International Space Station in October.

"It's been an amazing, amazing experience," said Mr. Bass, 23, in a tightly packed NASA press conference yesterday. "It's wonderful I have a voice for the younger generation to inspire the future astronauts, the future scientists."

Mr. Bass called his training for a Russian flight to the space station "one of the most intense things you will ever experience in your life, physically, mentally. But on the other hand, it's the most rewarding thing. I've had so much fun."

Hollywood producer David Krieff of Destiny Productions is trying to raise the funds to pay Russia for the trip. He hopes to recoup his investment through the sales of advertisements, television specials about Mr. Bass' journey to space and a post-landing concert.

But the Russian space program is fed up with the delays and problems in getting its money. It has told the singer's promoters to put up or shut up.

Russia has to fly paying customers and offer commercial sponsorships to pay its bills, a point Moscow emphasized in its letter to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Canada, Europe and Japan informing the space station partners about Mr. Bass' participation.

The Russian Soyuz is a three-person spacecraft that serves as the space station's emergency "lifeboat." Each crew has a Russian pilot, but Russia sells the other two seats to other countries and tourists who can afford it. The amount is a secret, but the figure of $20 million has become the typical guess.

"We ask for the cooperation of all the ISS partners in this endeavor as it will ensure [Russias] ability to meet Soyuz production obligations in 2002 and allow us certain surplus for the coming year," the letter said.

This week, the other nations approved the crew, including Mr. Bass. Russia is responsible for most of the Soyuz crew's training, but the crew also needs a weeklong training period in Houston to learn about the station's U.S.-built systems.

"The cost of training Bass is covered by the cost of training the rest of the Soyuz taxi crew. NASA has not received any separate compensation," said NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries.

The commander for the Soyuz is Russian cosmonaut Sergei Zalyotin. The flight engineer will be Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne. If the money doesn't come through in time, the third seat will have a container filled with supplies instead. Whether or not Mr. Bass flies, the Soyuz is scheduled for launch about 10:34 p.m. EDT on Oct. 28.

From a technical point of view, Mr. Bass has spent far less time in training than anybody who has ever prepared for a spaceflight even less than the monkeys who flew before the early astronauts.

But NASA Flight Director John Curry said that now "there's a minimal amount of training for any individual that flies in space, just to make sure they don't hurt themselves and don't endanger the crew."

"It's even simple things that cause problems for anybody," Mr. Curry said. "Newton's laws action-reaction. As soon as you push off, you're going to have to stop eventually. [Astronaut] Frank Culbertson talked about how the space station's so long you can get a lot of momentum going, you have to watch where you put your arm, you can run it through a handhold and potentially break your wrist. It's just simple things people have to be aware of before they get there."

Mr. Curry said his 9-year-old daughter, Caitlin, asked him if he could get Mr. Bass' autograph when he went to Moscow.

"I guess that tells me something right there," Mr. Curry said. "Obviously, 9-year-olds, teenagers, those kind of people are going to be excited."

The space station crew, Russian cosmonauts Valeri Korzun and Sergei Treschev, and American astronaut Peggy Whitson, will be the hosts for the taxi crew.

"If I hadn't been selected as an astronaut and I had [the money], I'd spend it, too," Mrs. Whitson said. "This is definitely worth the trip. I wish it was something which was financially feasible for more people hopefully one day it will be. Everyone should have the experience of being in microgravity it is indescribable how it makes you feel to be up here."

Mr. Korzun was asked who he thought should occupy the tourist seat.

"Well, how about Cindy Crawford? We would be very happy to see one of the supermodels," he suggested.

He quickly added, "This is a joke. We will be very happy to receive any space tourist, they're very welcome here."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide