Last February, when ‘N Sync’s Lance Bass announced plans to blast into space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket this fall, eyes rolled. Finally, it seemed, a celeb venture to outshine Michael Jackson’s umpteenth nose job! But now, as the proposed launch looms, befuddled onlookers wonder: Could this flight of fancy actually get off the ground?
Oddly enough, the sci-fi scenario makes sense. Even former moonwalker Buzz Aldrin approves: ”I’ve been extremely supportive of popular entertainers going into space,” he says, adding that the 23-year-old singer’s trip may spur public support for more scientific exploration. And among the ‘N Sync quintet, Bass is considered the most biz-savvy. He boasts a film production firm responsible for his 2001 debut, On the Line, and a management company that represents the likes of country chanteuse Meredith Edwards. (However, Bass doesn’t command the attention of hunky frontman Justin Timberlake, nor is he a proven stand-alone draw—consider Line‘s tepid $4.4 million box office take.)
But at least one brave producer is taking a galactic chance on a man whose main credential is a 1992 trip to Space Camp near Titusville, Fla. Destiny Productions prez David Krieff, who reunited Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan for a 1998 Fox special, plans to produce Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass for TV. Krieff is still mulling whether Bass’ trip will be a one-time (and possibly live) show or, as he dreams, ”a multi-episodic sort of thing…an Osbournes in space.” Whatever the format, he’s not daunted by the obstacles: ”This is the first time I’ve ever done this…so I’m not experienced in the problems I’ve already encountered, much less will.”
According to TV insiders, the main hurdle may be money. At a reported $20 million, a Soyuz seat ”ain’t cheap,” says Krieff’s producing partner, Phil Gurin. Add in production expenses and the cost could balloon above $30 million. But Krieff claims to have $2 million in escrow from an unidentified source and hopes to land up to seven major sponsors. At present, though, the only backer is Radio Shack, which paid an undisclosed sum for Bass’ medical tests in Russia last month. ”The title sponsor will get their logo on the side of the rocket,” says Krieff, who declined to discuss the specifics of his business model, ”and presenting sponsors will have their logos on his suit and boots.” One vet producer questions the product placement, quipping ”It’s hard to get a wide shot from the exterior [of the rocket].”
There’s also the prospect of tempting fate. Since launches are weather-dependent, networks may balk at scheduling problems, particularly for a live broadcast. And one producer recalls what happened to Survivor creator Mark Burnett’s proposed $40 million series for NBC, Destination Mir. ”It didn’t go forward because Mir crashed,” he says—though technically Russia brought Mir down in a planned fall in 2001. ”Going to space is not safe. It’s life-and-death.”