Two years after he was shot down, Lance Bass has not given up on his dream to go into space, nor does he want anyone else to give up their dreams, either.
The 'NSYNC singer spent the last week, World Space Week, talking to Los Angeles schoolchildren about the importance of studying math and science so that they could potentially become astronauts one day.
"It's nice to talk to kids who really look to the future," Bass said. "And this helps keep them interested."
As a youth spokesperson for World Space Week, Bass visited a number of schools, including the Science Center School, a new elementary school in Los Angeles. Last year, he visited schools in Houston, where he had completed the NASA portion of his training in 2002 to prepare to be a cosmonaut for the Russians.
"I tell them that it's more and more likely that they'll be able to go into space, that it can happen during their lifetimes," Bass said. "But I try to impress upon them the importance of an education first."
Not only are math and science critical, he tells the students, but so is learning about other cultures and other languages, like when he had to study Russian as part of his training. To encourage them to find the work fun, he unveiled a student competition called Lance's Lab, which challenges students to design a module for the International Space Station in which he could live and work. Contest winners will meet Bass at an awards ceremony next year. "One of the students wondered if my voice would sound different in space, so they wanted to design a recording studio and see if I would do a song up there," he said. "They come up with all kinds of stuff."
Bass might even have the opportunity to use some of the students' ideas — he's still working out a financial plan that would allow him to go up into space, though it won't be the same television producers partnering with him that he had before. He won't disclose the details, for fear of repeating what happened the last time, when publicity partially undermined his efforts (see "Looks Like Cargo, Not Lance Bass, Will Be Shot Into Space"), but he does say this — he's got more of a chance to go now than ever.
"The process isn't as difficult," Bass' former race-to-space competitor Lori Garver said. "The Russians are always interested in flying commercial passengers who can pay for the trip, pass the medical examinations and train for the experience. The question for programs like mine and Lance's is that of raising the funding through partnerships and sponsorships. There is no question in my mind that Lance and I, as well as thousands of others, will have our dreams fulfilled by going to space."
For now, though, Bass is content to answer the schoolchildren's questions: Are there aliens? What does zero-gravity feel like? And will he ever go into space?
"They think I have all the inside info," he said. "And maybe someday, I will."