Russians boot Lance Bass from shuttle for nonpayment
”It’s over,” said Russian space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov. That’s his assessment to the Associated Press of Lance Bass’ bid to fly on the space shuttle to the international space station on Oct. 28. Citing Bass’ ”crude violations” of his contract — the numerous deadlines for coughing up the $20 million ticket price that Bass’ backers have missed — Gorbunov said on Tuesday that Bass had been asked to leave the cosmonaut training center in Star City, Russia. ”After failing to fulfill the conditions of his contract, Lance Bass has been told that his training at the Cosmonaut Training Center has ended and that his flight to the ISS is impossible,” Gorbunov told Reuters.
Bass’ on-again-off-again space flight has seemed iffy for months. Despite spending much of this year training to become the youngest person ever in space, the 23-year-old singer has met with a lot of skepticism from the Russians, first over his ability to train for the mission in just a few months, and then over the likelihood of his paying his way. TV producer David Krieff had planned to make a miniseries out of the ‘N Sync singer’s journey, funding the mission through advertising. In recent weeks, as Bass continued to train at Star City and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Krieff has claimed that he has gathered the funding and blamed the delay in payment on his failure to receive proper paperwork from the Russians.
Since it’s too late to find another paying space tourist, Gorbunov told Reuters, ”We are preparing to send a cargo container to the ISS instead of a third crew member. Bass is now at Star City, gathering his stuff and preparing to leave.” But one of Bass’ backers said that, even now, the singer could still make the flight.
Jeff Manbar, president of Mir-Corp, which had help set up Bass’ trip, told AP he was still planning to meet with the Russians over payment issues. ”It is a little dramatic to say he was kicked out,” Manbar said. ”He was training at Star City yesterday. He is not training today, but he will be back there probably tomorrow or the day after.”