Russian space agency says it has no plans to take 'N Sync's Lance Bass to space

Wednesday, May 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Russian space agency said Wednesday that it had no plans to give 'N Sync's Lance Bass a ride to space, and that no other space tourist has secured a seat on a Russian rocket set to blast off to the international space station in October.

``The Russian Aerospace Agency has had no contacts whatsoever with Mr. Bass,'' agency spokesman Konstantin Kreidenko said. ``We have received no requests from either him or his representatives, not to speak about signing any contracts.''

The 23-year-old boy band member said in February that he hoped to travel into space, following in the footsteps of an American businessman and South African Internet magnate who have flown Russian rockets to the international station.

Last week, Moscow's Institute of Biomedical Problems, Russia's premier space medicine center, said Bass and former NASA employee Lori Garver were being evaluated for their space travel fitness.

But on Wednesday, Kreidenko said: ``Anyone has the right to undergo tests in the Institute of Biomedical Problems. But that doesn't mean that such person is considered to be a candidate for space flight.''

Kreidenko said no decision had been made about the next space tourist, and wouldn't comment on possible candidates.

The Russian space agency has kept one seat available in the three-person Soyuz spacecraft alongside Russian flight commander Sergei Zaletin and European Space Agency astronaut Frank DeWinne of Belgium.

Time is running out to fill the slot, however, because of the months of preparation the candidate would have to undergo. A Russian cosmonaut will start training for the mission if it appears that no space tourist will join the trip.

The world's second space tourist, South African Mark Shuttleworth, returned to Earth earlier this month, saying it was the best thing he'd ever done. Like the world's first space tourist, Dennis Tito, he paid around $20 million for the ride.

Bass has the support of a Los Angeles TV production company, Destiny Productions, to help fund his bid and to film the training and trip for a TV special.

He and Garver were scheduled to hold a news conference in Moscow later this week to discuss their plans.