Out of sync


IT PROBABLY SHOULDN'T be surprising that space would be the final frontier for America's top export: pop culture. But plans for Lance Bass, of the boy band 'N Sync, to become the first star, so to speak, shot into space are more awful than the above pun.

Whether the 23-year-old Mr. Bass becomes the youngest astronaut and the third paying space tourist now depends on another great American creation: the art of the show biz deal.

Mr. Bass claims to have undergone surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat so as to qualify medically. He also recently received NASA's OK to board the International Space Station. But his backers haven't coughed up the $20 million for his seat on the next Russian space launch. So last week the Russians kicked him out of their cosmonaut training complex, saying they'd send a cargo container in his place.

But money talks: Russia intends to rely on paying space tourists to fund production of future Soyuz spacecraft. The media company that cooked up this unearthly venture insists a deal will be launched in time for Mr. Bass to lift off and spend 10 days at the orbiting space station. And wait, there's more: The company is hoping Mr. Bass' astral adventure will pioneer the way for up to a dozen more such celestial celebrities.

The October launch of the Soyuz rocket is serious business, delivering a fresh capsule to the space station. These capsules, which must be replaced every six months, serve as emergency lifeboats for space station residents. Here's hoping this sideshow doesn't get in the way -- or lead to even greater trivialization of space exploration.

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