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Russians: Nyet So Fast, Lance

For those still scratching their heads over Lance Bass’ plans to become the youngest space traveler ever, you’re not alone. A spokesman for Russia’s space agency, Rosaviakosmos, said Thursday that they haven’t started any talks with Netherlands-based MirCorp about sending the ‘N Syncer into space.

And while it’s entirely possible Bass could still realize his $25 million Rocket Man dream, the pop star’s announcement “is as if I said I had bought Australia,” Rosaviakosmos spokesman Sergei Gorbunov tells Reuters. “MirCorp has no right to sell these flights. They have no link to Rosaviakosmos, we have no contract linking us.”

They may think it’s gonna be a long, long time before Bass nabs a coveted seat on a Soyuz taxi mission to the International Space Station. But Bass’ publicists and MirCorp remained optimistic Thursday that the 22-year-old would be able to work out a deal getting him a spot on the November flight-despite competition from other potential candidates.

“MirCorp and Destiny productions are confident that with their proposal, Lance Bass will have this slot,” MirCorp vice chairman Walt Anderson said in a statement.

As part of the agreement with MirCorp, Bass and L.A.-based Destiny Productions are hoping to document the flight-as well as five to six months of pre-flight training in Russia-for a TV special titled Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass.

“MirCorp has the most experience in commercial space activities with the Russians,” Anderson added. “MirCorp is partners with RSC Energia, which builds the manned launch vehicles. MirCorp and Destiny stand by their invitation for Lance to be a part of this historical event.”

Destiny Productions president David Krieff also seemed optimistic about Bass’s chances, saying Wednesday “it’s really only a matter of money.”

But Russia’s space agency said it’s not so simple.

“We are not a shop selling flights,” Gorbunov said. “There is a hard preparation process and it is not just about coming up and buying a flight. And I’m not even talking about the agreements it is necessary to reach with our partners.”

Russia has welcomed private citizens onto its flights, part of an attempt to bring in extra cash and solve some of its budget problems. MirCorp was involved in early preparations to send U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito to the space station last year, but the final deal ended up getting worked out by the Virginia-based Space Adventures. That company also is behind a trip this spring by South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth.

Russian Space Chief Yuri Koptev said Wednesday there is still an open spot on the November Soyuz mission, and they are looking for potential passengers. But the Rosaviakosmos spokesman told Reuters that the current frontrunner in the race is not Bass-but Polish businessman Leszek Czarnecki. (Yeah, but how many platinum records does he have?)

Gorbunov says Czarnecki’s trip also must be approved by Russia’s International Space Station partners, which includes NASA and more than a dozen other countries.

Meanwhile, according to Space.com, a NASA spokesman said the U.S. agency wouldn’t oppose the Bass trip, as long as he met all the medical and physical requirements recently agreed upon by the Space Station partners.

So, in other words, cut down on those Chili’s babyback ribs, Lance-there may still be hope.

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