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Russians Cut Lance Bass From Program

‘N Sync singer Lance Bass was asked to leave Russia’s cosmonaut training program because his sponsors didn’t come up with the $20 million for a trip to the International Space Station, a Russian space official said Tuesday.

Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency, said the Russians negotiated with Bass “in good faith,” but “his sponsors didn’t fulfill the conditions of the contract and we never received the money.”

The U.S. pop star had been granted several deadline extensions after failing to get the money needed to secure his seat, Gorbunov said. He said the decision to end negotiations was made after “crude violations” of the contract.

The singer could not immediately be reached. His Russian spokesman, Yuri Nikiforov of Atlas Aerospace, said there would be no comment Tuesday. Bass’ supporters have blamed paperwork problems for the delay.

Gorbunov said Bass, who had hoped to fly to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on Oct. 28, would be leaving Russia’s Star City within the next few hours.

“It’s over,” Gorbunov said.

Bass began training in July at Star City, and just returned to Russia on Sunday after spending a week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston with the other two crew members.

Jeff Manber, president of MirCorp, which had been working on behalf of Bass, continued to express optimism Tuesday that the mission would go ahead.

“It is a little dramatic to say he was kicked out,” said Manber, who added that he was headed into another meeting with Russian space officials to discuss the payment details.

“He was training at Star City yesterday. He is not training today, but he will be back there probably tomorrow or the day after.”

Gorbunov said that in place of Bass, the Russians would likely send up a cargo container with extra equipment needed on the International Space Station. Gorbunov said the container has already been prepared and is ready to go.

Bass, 23, would have been the youngest person yet in space. Last year, California businessman Dennis Tito became the first space tourist despite opposition from NASA, which at the time opposed sending nonprofessionals to space. South African Internet tycoon Mark Shuttleworth made the trip this spring. Unlike Bass, those two did not rely on corporate sponsors to pay for the trip.

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