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Third tourist's space mission may not take place - 30 August, 2002

The third tourist's, American singer Lance Bass, space mission to the International Space Station ISS) may not take place.

Regrettably, but the situation with the payment for the flight has not changed. The money has not been transferred, said Jeff Manber, the president of the MirCorp corporation, which is the American partner of Rosaviakosmos in the organisation of commercial projects, in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to him, it took much more time for sponsors who agreed to finance the commercial mission to the ISS on board of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, scheduled for October 28th and being organised with the participation of the Los Angeles producer company Destiny Production, to agree the details of the 400-page contract and transfer money. The flight is of great interest, indeed, but too little time remained and time is now our enemy, Manber said.

One of the lessons learned from the present situation (the first one when the flight is being paid for not by "the space tourist himself" but sponsors) is that months are needed for a sponsor-company to transfer money, in fact much more time than I expected, said the MirCorp president.

According to him, it is not clear yet whether Destiny Production will be able to transfer money in time. I have not received the answer to this question, but the company has already violated the money transfer terms established by the contract and it is only due to unprecedentedly good will and understanding of the Russian colleagues that additional time was given, Manber said.

Asked by RIA Novosti whether it was possible that Bass's mission to the ISS be postponed till the next flight of a Russian spacecraft, Manber replied that Bass was asked this question many times and each time his answer was negative. This is up to him, and he will either fly in October or will not fly for a long time, Manber pointed. He is now 23 years old and I think that if the current mission is cancelled he will have time to return to this project, the president of the MirCorp said.

Another source, close to the organisation of the flight of the US N'Sync" group singer, told RIA Novosti on Thursday, on the condition of anonymity, that the situation looks discouraging. I don't think that the Russian side is ready to give more extra time, he said adding that most probably, the final deadline for transferring money would be the middle of the next week.

Bass will complete a flight training course in NASA's Lyndon Johnson Space Centre (Houston, Texas) late this week.

On Tuesday, he was officially approved by NASA, the European space agency, as well as by representatives of Russia, Canada and Japan as an official candidate for visiting the ISS.

The cost of his "ticket" to space is, according to unofficial data, about 20 million dollars. If the mission does take place Bass will become the youngest man in space and the first representative of the entertainment industry to reach the near-Earth orbit.