Just when you thought you'd heard the last of it, it looks like Lance Bass' space mission might happen after all.
A source close to the project told MTV News that Bass will resume training at the Star City facility near Moscow on Wednesday, thanks to a nearly finalized sponsorship deal with Pepsi.
To make up for the 10 training days Bass lost since being pulled off his regimen earlier this month (see "Lance Bass' Team Says Space Dream Ain't Over Despite 'Termination' ") he's going to have to work 16-hour days and weekends. And if that's not enough to keep him in the running for the October flight, his plan B is to go in April.
The European Space Agency is considering two candidates for that spring flight — Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque and Dutch astronaut Andrew Kuipers. Since a third candidate hasn't made the flight crew list yet, room is still available for a space tourist to take the last remaining seat. "Lance will be going to space," the source said. "Nothing has changed, other than that if we can't come to terms for the October flight, it'll be April instead."
But what of the letter the Russian Space Agency sent to its space station partners, formally removing Bass from the crew for next month's mission (see "Looks Like Cargo, Not Lance Bass, Will Be Shot Into Space")? "The letter means nothing," the source said. "If they can send the letter, they can withdraw the letter."
The Russians had long complained of late and missing payments, while Bass' backers insisted the money, $20 million, was forthcoming. Purported new sponsor Pepsi has yet to officially announce involvement, but a source close to the deal said the cola company is in the midst of negotiating a $35 million space marketing plan, which would pay for part of Bass' rocket ride. The plan would also involve securing a seat on a Soyuz craft for the winner of a game show.
There is precedent for Pepsi to make such a deal. In 1996 the soft drink giant paid $5 million to have cosmonauts float a 4-foot-tall replica of a Pepsi can outside the MIR space station for a television commercial. Video of the can and a banner reading, "Even in space ... Pepsi is changing the script" were shot both inside and outside the station. No actual Pepsi beverages were available on MIR for the cosmonauts to drink, however.
Though Pepsi hasn't officially signed on for Bass' "Celebrity Mission" show, his in-progress network deal has been cited as the prelude to a reality game show that would send civilians into space (see "'NSYNC's Lance Bass Plans To Leave Earth"). Destiny Productions President David Krieff has said that "Celebrity Mission" would set the stage for the rocket reality show "Big Mission," which would allow contestants to compete to follow in Bass' zero-gravity footsteps.
Similarly, "Survivor" creator Mark Burnett has also been developing a rocket reality program called "Destination Space," in which contestants would go through training at Star City while former astronauts, military and space officials would vote off one person a week.
PepsiCo didn't return calls for comment.