'N Sync star Lance Bass, who's about to take show biz to new heights, wants to use his voice aboard the international space station not so much for singing as for inspiring a new generation of astronauts and scientists. Sure, he'll grab the space station guitar for a jam session when he drops by this fall. But don't expect any cosmic concerts or recordings. After weeks of "training our butts off," the 23-year-old boy band member plans more serious stuff. "The educational aspect of this whole mission is what inspires me the most," Bass said at a news conference Thursday. When TV producers asked him earlier this year to take part in a celebrity space mission, "it was a no-brainer. I was like, for sure, I will be there."
It's been an amazing week at NASA, Bass noted, with an amazing space crew and an amazing international mission. He set a space program record for the most frequent use of the word "amazing" - 41 by NASA's count. His participation shatters a couple of other records: He will be the youngest space traveler ever and the first graduate of space camp - which he attended in Florida 10 years ago - ever to make it to space. "It's going to be amazing," said Bass, who will be the world's third space tourist.
Bass and his Russian and Belgian crewmates, both professional spacemen, took time out of their training this week at Johnson Space Center to meet with a jammed roomful of reporters and photographers. Almost all the questions were directed at Bass, whose mother and all four grandparents watched proudly from the back row. Fellow band member JC Chasez tagged along during Wednesday's work sessions, but had to leave Thursday for the MTV Video Music Awards in New York.
Bass said he will be nervous when he rockets away from Kazakhstan on Oct. 28. But he insisted: "I'm definitely not afraid. I know how the whole system works." He and his crewmates already have put in weeks of training at cosmonaut headquarters in Star City, Russia. The singer was not named to the Russian crew until July and was only endorsed by NASA and the other space station partners this week. "I kind of came in late in the game, but have been doing 12-hour days, six days a week, so I've definitely been cramming it in as much as I can," Bass said.
"But with the help of my crew - and they've been amazing - any questions I have, they're right there for me. I feel very educated at this point and still have two months to go." His commander, Sergei Zalyotin, admitted he was "a little skeptical" about Bass at first, but has since come around because of all his efforts. Bass said he has learned all the necessary emergency procedures and will not be a hindrance. He knows just a little Russian, but "I know how to point."
"I don't want to be a nuisance up there," Bass said, adding that he will be focusing on photography and video work for his documentary. "Nothing too dangerous," he said with a smile. As for space motion sickness, "if I get sick, I get sick ... but I have a stomach of steel." TV producers representing Bass have yet to reach a financial deal to pay the Russians' dlrs 20 million price tag. Corporate sponsors are still being lined up for a seven-part TV series that would begin in September and lead up to launch day.
Bass said he's confident it will all work out. His suitcase will hold a new video camera for the documentary, as well as several compact discs for his listening pleasure, lots of country - Faith Hill and Tim McGraw - but definitely no 'N Sync. "I listen to it every day," he said. "I can live a week without that." He plans to pull out the guitar on the space station, but there will be no concerts or record-cutting. "The education that I'm going to be doing is more like physics studies on video, just being able to talk live with people down in their schools on the ham radio.
Just letting them know what it's like to experience, let them see what it's like to be in zero-gravity, to know what it's like to train to become a cosmonaut-astronaut." He's already launched his education campaign, taking part in a NASA-sponsored Internet web chat with school children Thursday evening. Youngsters wanted to know whether being a musician has helped him prepare for his flight, whether his voice will sound different in space, and how they can keep up with what he'll be doing up there. His answers: Living in a bus while on tour will help him adjust to a confined spacecraft, stay tuned regarding any voice changes, and latch onto a ham radio for his daily space updates.