Russians make it official: Lance Bass is booted. NASA receives confirmation that the $20 million-shy 'N Sync singer won't be allowed to go to the International Space Station

By Gary Susman
Updated September 10, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

They really mean it this time. The Russian space agency has made official its rejection of Lance Bass’ space bid, sending formal letters to NASA and its other partners in the International Space Station confirming Bass’ rejection. With Bass’ backers having repeatedly failed to hand over the $20 million cost of Bass’ shuttle seat, the 23-year-old ‘N Sync singer’s hopes of becoming the youngest cosmonaut ever on the Oct. 28 shuttle flight are now all but dead.

The letter, dated Friday, was faxed Monday. ”This is officially where the Russians stand,” NASA spokeswoman Debra Rahn told MTV. ”This letter would not be sent unless they were certain of their position. For them to send this letter, that’s it. It’s off. It speaks for itself.”

Still, Bass’ backers, including a Hollywood production company that hoped to film his trip for TV and get sponsors to pony up the cost, refuse to acknowledge that Bass has been scrubbed. ”It ain’t over yet,” said Destiny Productions president, who had complained in recent weeks that he had gathered the money and that the holdup was a paperwork snafu that was the Russians’ fault. Jeffrey Manber, president of MirCorp, one of the agencies that helped book Bass’ flight, told MSNBC that, although Bass had left the training facility in Star City, Russia, he was still in Moscow, which Manber considered a good sign. Manber said he still expected to have talks with the Russians later this week.

Even so, it may be too late for Bass simply because of all the training days he’s missed since he was yanked from the program last Tuesday. ”It’s a matter of safety,” Rahn told MTV. “He’s been losing days and days on an already compressed schedule. They can certainly send another letter asking us to reinstate him, but how would that make up for the lost training?”

It’s also too late to find a replacement candidate for Bass’ seat. The Russians have said they’ll send up a container of cargo, equal to the boy-band singer in mass, in his place.

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