'N Sync in Space

It looks like Lance Bass won't be going up into space after all. Lance, in case you've been too busy scouring TV Guide searching for reruns of The Chamber, is one of the singers in the teen heartthrob band the Backstreet Boys. I mean, O-Town. I mean, 'N Sync.

Lance was preparing to hand $22 million to Mircorp for a seat on a Russian space taxi which is heading to the International Space Station next November. Hah! And you thought you had to call a taxi way in advance. The only hitch was that all the coach seats were sold out and he doesn't want to pay for first class. Just kidding. Actually the problem is that the Russian space agency Rosaviakosmos (motto: "Finally, over 186 days without a breakdown of the Mir") says they don't have a deal with Mircorp.

Mircorp, it turns out, is an Amsterdam-based company which apparently hallucinates a lot. Maybe they should consider spending less time smoking hash in the coffee shops and more time in the office. They've been trying to develop a private space station for the past couple of years that can accommodate three visitors for up to 20 days at a time. Originally they wanted to build it on Mir but -- whoops! -- it fall down, go boom. When they do finally get it set up it will be pretty Spartan. There's no room service, no swimming pool, and no golf course within 234 miles. On the other hand, they'll serve a free freeze-dried continental breakfast, supply transportation to and from the space station, and promise to leave the lights on for you.

This means we won't get to see the TV special, Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass, which Destiny Productions was planning for the fall. It's a real shame too since this is the same company that brought us such entertainment blockbusters as Battle of the Sexes on Ice and Battle of the Broads, which featured Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, though not in the three-fall cage match we all hoped it would be. But all's not lost. They'll probably film a replacement special at another international outpost, the International House of Pancakes. This could be pretty profitable considering that -- True 'N Synch Fact Alert! -- a fan once paid $1,025 for a piece of French toast Bass had only partly eaten. Can you imagine the going rate for his half-eaten Pigs in Blankets?

Bass obviously tried to book the flight from the wrong company, since an American has already flown to the space station and a South African is scheduled to take the trip in April. They were smart and booked their flights through Priceline because they figured William Shatner had an inside edge on anything space related. Right, like Shatner ever had an edge. The truth is they bought their tickets from Virginia-based Space Adventures for a money-saving $20 million. And still got a snack and their choice of beverage.

Even if Lance had gone to Space Adventures he might have had a problem getting through spaceport security. NASA, in a burst of good old American Puritanism, recently issued guidelines covering who they'll allow to hang out on the space station. You can't have been delinquent or guilty of misconduct in any employment. You can't be a criminal, dishonest, lie, get drunk often, or use illegal drugs. And you can't be a member of an organization which "adversely affects the public's confidence in the space station." In other words, you can't be a musician.

This is, of course, the same NASA which tried to raise money a few years back by selling ads on the side of its rockets but couldn't get any takers. Russia, playing the Wal-Mart card and marking down the price, got Pizza Hut to ante up $1.5 million to put a 30-foot logo on a Proton rocket. This is also the same NASA that couldn't come up with a better name for the observatory they're planning to send up in July than Space Infrared Telescope Facility, or SIRTF, so they held a "Name a NASA Observatory" contest. And yes, it's the same NASA that not only isn't giving the winner any prize money for coming up with the name, but also closed the contest on December 20, 2001 and estimates they'll come to a decision by "late 2002." Hey, what's the rush?

Why do all these people want to go up into space, anyway? It could be they want to do scientific research such as look for buried ice on Mars, measure the Van Allen belt, or discover why Conan O'Brien will be getting an astronomical $8 million a year for the next four years. What does NBC think he is, a baseball player or something? It's also possible they want to take a good look around and see if the universe is really turquoise as two astronomers from Johns Hopkins University seem to think it is. They came up with this conclusion not by looking, but by mixing all the colors in the visible light from 200,000 galaxies. The result looked like baby's first summer. Just kidding. Actually it was light green. This in spite of the fact that we all know the sky is blue.

If he's smart, Lance Bass will abandon Mircorp and go to a booking agent who can actually get him a seat on the space taxi. Then he'll take some paint chips along so he can give us a definitive answer about the color of the universe. Then we can sit back, relax, and wait for fall when he'll either win a Nobel Prize or star in the TV special, Celebrity Mission: Lance Bass and the Freeze-Dried Pigs in Blankets. And you thought since The Chamber was cancelled you had nothing to look forward to.

More Mad Dog can be found at www.maddogproductions.com.

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