On the same day that the space shuttle Atlantis launched from Cape Canaveral, headed for the International Space Station, 'NSYNC's Lance Bass was continuing his own preparations to launch into space toward the same orbiting outpost.
On hand Monday for the premiere of "The Sweetest Thing" in New York, Bass said he's trying to maximize his downtime during 'NSYNC's current tour to fit in additional medical tests in the U.S. before he heads to Russia yet again to see if he can qualify for a fall mission aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket (see " 'NSYNC's Lance Bass Plans To Leave Earth").
"I'm still testing to see if I can make the mission," Bass said, "and I have another week and a half of that. ... If I pass these tests, then I'll go to Russia to pass the next six tests, which are a lot easier."
Bass had previously undergone a rigorous battery of examinations in March to qualify for a seat on the Russian mission that's set to launch on October 22 and return to earth on November 1 (see " 'NSYNC's Lance Bass In Moscow For Space Tests"). At the time, the pop star went through centrifugal-force and zero-gravity tests, as well as a full physical.
"You had a different doctor for every part of your body," Bass said of the tests at the Institute for Bio-Medical Problems in Moscow, "and to make sure it all works from your eyes, nose, ears, whatever, every internal organ so I know I'm very healthy. They passed me all from those tests so now I'm doing a set of tests here in America. Once I pass that, and I hope I do, then I'm off to Russia, ... and hopefully I'll be cleared by the Russians to ... live there for six months and train to be a cosmonaut, which I'm very excited about."
Destiny Productions President David Krieff, who accompanied Bass to Moscow to film the experience for a possible television special, said that Bass' tests in the U.S. are being conducted "with guidance from Russia." "There's only a couple of other things he has to do mental agility, teamwork, physical abilities," Krieff said. "And 80 percent of the tests will be done by the time he goes to Russia. The thinking is that he'll go right into training in Moscow. We're getting ready to rock here."
Though Bass' visa to Russia has already been arranged, he'll still need the approval of the Russian space agency before he can get on the short list to be the one civilian among a team of three other cosmonauts to visit the International Space Station on the mission. If Bass makes the cut, he will be the third civilian in space. South African Mark Shuttleworth, who is currently training at Star City near Moscow, will be the second civilian to go into space, with his trek to the ISS booked for April 20.
With the testing at such an accelerated rate, Bass is anticipating having little time off between 'NSYNC's last tour date in Orlando, Florida, on April 28 and his flight to Russia. "I don't even think I'll be able to celebrate my birthday [on May 4]," he said. "I'll probably be on a plane, hopefully. But it'll be fun. It's a great gift if I get to go."