Just when it seemed all systems were go, it now appears that Lance Bass’ trip into space may be off – though his team insists otherwise.
When Bass returned to Moscow over the weekend following a weeklong crash course at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Russian space officials didn’t welcome the singer with open arms. The sticky issue of payment had not been resolved by the last Russian deadline of Friday (August 30), and on Tuesday (September 3), the Russian Space Agency pulled Bass off his training regiment in Star City. To make matters seem more dire, spokespeople for the Russian Space Agency indicate cargo will be sent instead.
“As a result of non-fulfillment of contract conditions, [Bass] was officially notified of termination of his training… and impossibility of his flight to the International Space Station,” a statement from the Russian Space Agency read. “Rosaviakosmos and the Energia Corporation took a decision to send to the ISS a cargo, equal in weight to Lance Bass.”
Russian Space Agency spokesperson Sergei Gorbunov also told Russian news agency TASS that they want to send Bass home with a bill for his training thus far, plus hotel accommodations. He explained that it would be too late in the program to consider another candidate, making cargo the only other viable option.
“Since the stake on Bass as the key candidate was made from the very start, Rosaviakosmos had to turn down other people wishing to fly,” Gorbunov told TASS. “Even if any one of them deposits not $20 million but $40 million, he will be late for a flight all the same. It is impossible just physically to train over the two remaining months.”
Reps for Bass refuse to give up hope and say that they are “calm and confident” that the mission will continue with Bass aboard. “The trip is not over,” Bass’ spokesperson Jill Fritzo said. “Lance is in Russia and we are still in negotiations. We feel very confident that there will be a resolution soon and the trip will go on as planned.”
“We are extremely confident that we will reach a solution for Lance’s historic journey,” said a spokesperson for Mir-Corp, one of the companies working on behalf of Bass. “Lance himself remains absolutely committed to doing this mission.”
The issue of payment, Bass’ camp said, is also about to be resolved, as the money is in place to be transferred to the Russians despite complaints that the payment is past due. In order to salvage the singer’s space bid, Destiny Productions spokesperson Carole Myers said a few final terms are being straightened out.
“Sometimes when it seems things have stalled, what’s really happened is that other opportunities have come up,” Myers said. “And while it’s not appropriate to give out every little detail, we absolutely will transfer the money. This is not a step back in the program, but another phase, and we’re not in the least concerned. Right now, everything is moving ahead.”
In the meantime, the Russian news agency Interfax reports that the cargo container designed to replace Bass will be filled with personal belongings for the current International Space Station crew and hardware for the Russian-built components of the station.