The 22-year-old rock star Lance Bass of the group ?Nsync plans to take a ride on a Russian Soyuz capsule to the international Alpha station. California millionaire Dennis Tito became the world?s first space tourist in April 2001 after paying $20 million for a seat aboard a Russian rocket to the international space station. South African Internet tycoon Mark Shuttlesworth is due to fly in April.
Bass went to the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Russia where he is taking an intensive series of medical tests, which he says are ?just to test to see if my body can handle space. If I get the OK, I guess I?ll go up in November.? Bass is taking blood tests and physical examinations, as well as tests designed to find out how well he would cope with acceleration, weightlessness, disorientation and the other potential challenges of space flight. The singer, who attended space camp when he was 12, says going into orbit has been ?my lifelong dream. I?ve always wanted to do it, and I want to see if I can do it.?
RadioShack is providing financial support for the current phase of the project, including the medical tests. ?The Lance Bass flight will enhance RadioShack?s ongoing space program, which started last year when we delivered Father?s Day gifts to the space station crew,? says Jim McDonald, senior vice president for marketing and advertising for RadioShack.
Bass? space trip will be part of a reality-TV show that?s currently being considered by two networks. TV producer David Krieff of Destiny Productions says the Russians realize that Bass could ?reignite the whole youth thing, which Lance appeals to so strongly, to the level that maybe John F. Kennedy did in the ?60s. Lance is in a position to become an international hero.?
Lance has to be accepted without delay, since right now, the only space passenger flights are 10-day trips aboard Soyuz capsules that are regularly rotated on the space station every six months. After Shuttleworth?s flight, the next opportunity is in November.
Rules recently agreed upon by the Russians, NASA and other partners in the 16-nation space station call for space passengers to be submitted for approval at least six months before their proposed flight. That means Bass and his backers would have to reach an agreement and put money down with the Russians by May.
If Bass is cleared for flight, his designated Soyuz crewmates will be Russian commander Sergei Zalyotin and Frank De Winne, a professional astronaut from Belgium who is currently in training for his first space flight.
Besides Wally and Bass, two other possible candidates for passenger space flights are Leszek Czarnecki, a millionaire Polish banker; and former NASA Associate Administrator Lori Garver.
Czarnecki is working with Virginia-based Space Adventures, which made the final arrangements for Tito and Shuttleworth. Eric Anderson, the president of Space Adventures, says Czarnecki ?is very serious about flying in space as soon as possible.?
Garver has taken the required medical tests and is looking for sponsors to help pay the passenger fare.
?Titanic? director James Cameron also says he?d like to fly to the international space station and even film scenes there for a movie. But so far, he?s not actively pursuing it.
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The tiny country of Tonga, north of New Zealand, with a population of 100,000, is planning to send a tourist into space?despite the fact that its economy is based on exports of agricultural and fish products, international aid, and money sent home from Tongans living abroad. In the past Tonga has resorted to unusual schemes in order to raise money, including the sale of passports in the late 1980s.
Now an American woman astronaut has agreed to be the country?s first space tourist. Wally Funk, who trained with the original Mercury astronauts but never made it into space, has agreed to buy a $2 million ticket for a seven-day trip in low-Earth orbit, fulfilling her lifetime dream.
Roderick and Randa Milliron, of California-based space rocket developer InterOrbital Systems (IOS), plan to build a spaceport on one of Tonga?s 170 islands and say flights are scheduled to begin in 2005.
Advance space ticket sales are now available for the ?reduced rate? of $2 million. The price includes a 45-day astronaut training period in Russia and California, a seven-day voyage in low earth orbit and a vacation in Tonga.
See news story, ?Take Your Next Vacation in Space?, click here.
To learn about what they?ll see up there, read ?Dark Matter, Missing Planets & New Comets? by Tom Van Flandern,click here.
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