In order to go into space, Lance Bass first has to go to sea.
As part of his rigorous cosmonaut training, which the pop star finally started last week in Star City near Moscow, Bass will be dropped into the Black Sea in an emergency-splashdown test and left to fend for himself in a Russian forest without food or supplies.
Though the Russian Space Agency has yet to confirm that Bass will be their candidate for a third seat open in a fall rocket mission, which is set to launch October 22, Bass started his preliminary training on July 4, just over a month after he announced that he passed the medical qualifying exams (see "'NSYNC's Bass One Step Closer To Space: 'I Know I Can Do It' ").
Bass will train in cyclical rounds divided into one-month blocks, with his current round of training ending August 4. This and other rounds will include survival training for different climatic and geographical areas, in case the capsule doesn't land according to plan upon re-entry and the cosmonauts are forced to wait for a rescue team to arrive. To prepare for the possibility of the capsule landing in the wilderness, Bass will learn shooting techniques to defend himself against wolves and other predators, in addition to basic preservation skills such as building a shelter and starting a fire.
Bass will also have to learn Russian, space flight theory, spacecraft flight control systems and standard operations of the International Space Station. His flight simulations for Soyuz spacecraft will take place in a functional full-size simulator and will take him through the entire launch, flight and re-entry procedure on the ground.
Sources close to the project explained that space-tourists-in-training usually take time off in between each round of training until right before the mission, where they would train straight up through the launch. In his case, however, Bass might not have the luxury of time off, and would likely have to work nights and weekends.
"It's going to be hard for him, obviously," Bass' 'NSYNC comrade Joey Fatone told MTV Radio on Wednesday, "because they're cramming their six-month course into four months, crushing everything [he has to learn] into four months."
Bass' crash course which started with zero-gravity work last week doesn't guarantee him a seat, since details are still being worked out as far as funding is concerned. A spokesperson for the Russian Space Agency confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that they were in talks with the singer's spokespeople and added that no contract had been signed.
"The talks could lead to one being signed," spokesperson Konstantin Kredenko told Reuters, "but so far there is no time frame for this."
Fatone said that Bass remains optimistic and is currently being fitted for his spacesuit. "Doesn't that sound stupid?" he observed. "It's really weird."
The spacesuit fitting is likely to prepare Bass for his spacesuit training, where he'd have to put on and take off his suit after a simulated emergency landing in water and under zero-gravity conditions.
"We'll see what happens," Fatone said. "People are always going, 'Oh, he's just going to go up in space and mess around' and stuff. But he actually wants to do a lot of different experiments as well as stand around going, 'Look, I'm in space,' so that's pretty good. Not me. I'd be like, 'Let's float around. Let's pee in space' or something. It would be fun."
[This story was updated on 07.11.02 at 12:59 p.m. ET.]