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'NSync star goes to Russia for space tests

Just last month, the 22-year-old heartthrob announced his intention to take a ride on a Russian Soyuz capsule to the international Alpha station – following in the footsteps of California millionaire Dennis Tito, who became the first paying space passenger last April, and South African Internet tycoon Mark Shuttlesworth, who is due to fly next month.

On Thursday, less than 24 hours after ‘NSync’s Dallas concert, Bass was on his way to Moscow for “an intensive weekend of medical examinations” at the Institute of Biomedical Problems, said Jeff Lenorovitz, a spokesman for Amsterdam-based MirCorp. Executives involved in negotiating the terms for Bass’ flight were also heading to Moscow, he said.

Among those involved in the venture are MirCorp, a private venture that helped extend the life of Russia’s now-defunct Mir space station; Destiny Productions, a Hollywood TV production company; Radio Shack, which sponsored the first TV commercial filmed on Alpha; and LunaCorp, which has helped Radio Shack broker its space deals.

Radio Shack is a sponsor for the current round of medical tests.

The Russians’ going rate for a passenger trip to Alpha is $20 million. Destiny’s president, David Krieff, told MSNBC.com last month that Bass’ space trip would become the centerpiece of a reality-TV adventure show, modeled after a popular Scandinavian program called “The Big Mission.” Sponsorships would cover the cost of Bass’ training and flight, he said.

Krieff was among the executives en route to Moscow on Thursday, his assistant said.

Bass is expected to return from Russia by Monday, in time for a scheduled concert date in Denver. Initial reports about Bass’ weekend trip appeared on NASA Watch, an independent space news site.

The timing for the negotiations is relatively tight: Currently, the only options for space passenger flights involve 10-day trips aboard Soyuz capsules that are regularly rotated on the space station every six months. After Shuttleworth’s flight, the next opportunity is tentatively scheduled for November.

Rules recently agreed upon by the Russians, NASA and other partners in the 16-nation space station effort call for space passengers to be submitted for approval at least six months before their proposed flight. That means Bass and his backers would have to reach an agreement and put money down with the Russians by May.

‘NSync is due to finish up its concert tour on April 28, and Krieff has said Bass would be ready to begin the months of required training in May. If Bass is cleared for flight, his designated Soyuz crewmates would be Russian commander Sergei Zalyotin and Frank De Winne, a professional astronaut from Belgium who is currently in training for his first space flight.

At least two other candidates for passenger space flights have gone public: Leszek Czarnecki, a millionaire Polish banker; and former NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver.

Czarnecki is working with Virginia-based Space Adventures, which made the final arrangements for Tito and Shuttleworth. A spokeswoman for Space Adventures, Tereza Predescu, told MSNBC.com that Czarnecki was not aiming to go on the November flight and had not yet undergone the full medical prequalification with the Russians.

The weekly Space News reported this month that Garver, who is now a consultant for DFI International, had taken the required medical tests – and that she and DFI were recruiting sponsors to help pay the passenger fare.

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