Lance Bass' backers insist he'll still blast off. A reported Pepsi sponsorship deal, and lots of last-minute training, could still put the 'N Sync singer into orbit
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The Lance Bass space saga has had more twists and reversals than the choreography in an ‘N Sync video. It seemed the matter was finally put to rest last week when the Russian space agency sent a letter to NASA and its other partners, saying that it could no longer wait for Bass’ backers to cough up $20 million for his shuttle seat, and since it was too late to train another cosmonaut, it would be sending a cargo container aboard the shuttle to the International Space Station in Bass’ place. But now, less than six weeks before the Oct. 28 launch, Bass’ backers are telling MTV that the ‘N Sync singer really will blast off, thanks to a last-minute sponsorship deal, and that he’ll be back in training at the Star City, Russia space center as early as today.

Bass’ flight was to be documented in a reality miniseries called ”Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass,” whose sponsors were to pay the cost of the flight. In recent weeks, as the show’s producer, David Krieff, missed deadline after deadline to pay the Russians, he insisted that he had the money and that paperwork snafus on the Russians’ part were to blame for the delays. Now, a source close to the project tells MTV that the money is on its way, thanks to Pepsi. Although the soft drink bottler hasn’t confirmed the deal, the source says the company will spend $35 million in marketing, including partial funding of Bass’ flight.

According to MTV, Krieff’s Destiny Productions wants to make Bass’ flight the prelude to a reality game show called ”Big Mission,” which would send winning civilian contestants into space. ”Survivor” producer Mark Burnett is reportedly working on a similar show, called ”Destination Space,” in which contestants would train at Star City, while former astronauts and space experts would vote one contestant off each week.

To make up for the 10 days of training he’s missed, Bass is reportedly going to work 16-hour days and weekends. And if he’s still not ready, there’s another shuttle flight in April with an empty seat. ”Lance will be going to space,” MTV’s source said. ”Nothing has changed, other than that if we can’t come to terms for the October flight, it’ll be April instead.”

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