After a week of trying to salvage his bid to be the youngest person to go into space, Lance Bass' dream may now be dead.
The Russian Space Agency has notified its partners in the International Space Station that Bass is no longer scheduled to fly in October, according to a letter the agency sent to NASA on Monday.
The Russians have been complaining since early August about late and missing payments, growing increasingly frustrated at the end of each four-week training cycle. After two cycles were completed without payment, Bass was pulled off his training regimen at Russia's Star City (see "Lance Bass' Team Says Space Dream Ain't Over Despite 'Termination' ") and the space agency said it would be sending cargo to space instead of the 'NSYNC singer.
The letter to NASA finalizes that decision. Dated Friday and faxed Monday, it was signed by the Russian Space Agency's director of human space flight and was sent to NASA's deputy administrator and chairman of the board for the nation partners in the ISS, who were reviewing Bass' bid to fly. According to a spokesperson for NASA, the letter thanks the board for reviewing the Russians' previous proposal that Bass be their candidate (see "Lance Bass Gets Russia's Nod For October Space Flight") but revokes the request.
"They said they couldn't wait any longer for contractual terms to be implemented, that they haven't received any money," NASA spokesperson Debra Rahn said. "This is officially where the Russians stand. This letter would not be sent unless they were certain of their position. For them to send this letter, that's it. It's off. It speaks for itself."
As of Monday, Bass' backers were trying to keep the project going. Bass remained in Moscow over the weekend while his representatives continued to meet with the Russian Space Agency.
One Moscow-based negotiator, MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber, told MSNBC he was encouraged that the singer was staying in Moscow and that he expected to have further discussions with the Russians by midweek, since key participants will be out of town until then.
"It ain't over yet," insisted Destiny Productions President David Krieff, who has been trying to arrange the finances for Bass' trip via corporate sponsorships and a network television deal.
But even if the Russians received their money now, it may not be enough, NASA's Rahn said. Should the Russian Space Agency reverse itself and request to put Bass back on the crew, she said, NASA and the other space agencies sharing in the ISS would have serious concerns about Bass' missed training days.
"It's a matter of safety," she said. "He's been losing days and days on an already compressed schedule. They can certainly send another letter asking us to reinstate him, but how would that make up for the lost training? That would be NASA's perspective, and that would be the key issue to the other partners. Beyond that, it's speculation."
At a press conference last month, Bass addressed the possibility that he might not make the cut. Asked what he would do if he were told he couldn't go, he said, "After I stop crying? I would work my butt off trying to go for another mission."