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Pop Star: Let's Jam In Space!

'NSYNC's Lance Bass, putting his boy band career on hold for an improbable flight to the international space station, shrugged off questions about his qualifications today, saying he's had "tons and tons and tons" of emergency training and poses no safety threat to the station or his crewmates.

CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood reports that with cheery aplomb, Bass, 23, turned aside criticism with a smile and insisted his trip to the orbital outpost has one simple goal: Inspiring the youth of the world to pursue careers in math and science.

"I believe it is a great thing," he said. "I get letters from kids around the world saying how this has inspired them to study more science, to study more math. They had no idea about space exploration, they'd never studied it in school. But now, because of someone like me, it has made them focus on that. So yes, if I just inspire that one person it's definitely worth it."

Bass, Russian commander Sergei Zalyotin and Belgian astronaut
Frank DeWinne are scheduled to blast off aboard a Russian rocket Oct.
28 to deliver a fresh Soyuz lifeboat to the international space station. The so-called "taxi" crew will return to Earth Nov. 7 aboard the station's current Soyuz, which is nearing the end of its six-month orbital lifetime.

Bass began training two months ago in Russia and flew to the
Johnson Space Center last weekend for a one-week training session with his crewmates to familiarize them with safety systems and emergency procedures in the station's U.S. modules.

Bass is the third so-called "space tourist" to participate in a contract with the Russians for a $20 million seat on a Soyuz taxi mission. No money has actually changed hands yet, however, prompting public grumbling by the Russians and conflicting stories about missed deadlines and potential cancellation.

A production company partnership plans to air a documentary of
Bass' training and the eventual flight on a U.S. television network, but details are sketchy and the singer said today he is not involved with the business end of the negotiations.

But he said he has no doubt the Russians will get their money in the end and that he will be cleared to blast off on schedule. Earlier this week, he received formal clearance from NASA and the lab's other international partners.

"First off, I just want to say thank you to all the international partners involved with this," he said. "NASA has been amazing this week. It's been so much fun to train here in Houston. It's been an honor to be able to train in Russia with an amazing crew.

"We've been training our butts off," he said. "I kind of came in late in the game but I've been doing 12-hour days, six days a week, so I've definitely been cramming it in as much as I can, trying to learn my Russian. But with the help of my crew, they've been amazing, any questions I have, they've been right there for me. I feel very educated at this point."

Bass insisted his training will prepare him for any foreseeable emergency and that his presence on the crew will not pose a safety threat.

"That is exactly what I'm doing here training for," he said. "I do understand a little Russian. With emergency situations, by the time we go up, hopefully it'll be a no-brainer of what to do, on my part ... I feel very safe. There's tons and tons and tons of emergency training so I feel very confident I'll know what to do in case of any kind of emergency."

Soyuz commander Zalyotin, a veteran of the Mir space station program, said he's comfortable Bass can handle himself in an emergency.

"When I was told two months ago that we would have a new addition to our crew, I was a little skeptical at first," he said through an interpreter.

"But when I looked at how Lance was training, his training flow and how he was doing things, I understood we would be able to get him to do what he needs to do. We already had a full dress rehearsal on the Soyuz TMA vehicle, wearing the spacesuits and gear, and I can tell you I was very pleased with the performance of all crew members. Lance will bring a lot to our crew and to our mission."

Said Bass: "I have no doubt in my mind that any of the international partners would let me go if they didn't think I was qualified. That's the reason I train ... When it comes down to it, if I'm not ready to go, I don't go. I don't see that happening because I've really studied hard these last few months, trained hard, I have an amazing crew, and I feel very educated to what I have to do."

Along with filming his documentary, Bass also plans to participate in educational videos and to chat with school kids around the work using the station's ham radio system. Hoping to capitalize on the singer's involvement, NASA set up an educational internet webcast
Thursday evening.

Bass said he has no definitive plans to perform any music in orbit, but "of course I'll probably be singing up there. There is a guitar up there, we might have a little jam session!"

"But as far as like concerts and all that, no, nothing's planned," he said. "The education 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.

"It is one of the most intense things you'll ever experience in your life, physically, mentally," he added. "But also on the other hand, it's the most rewarding thing. I cannot even imagine what it's going to be like up there."

Asked if he felt any fear about the prospect of blasting off aboard a rocket, Bass said "nervous excitement" was a more accurate description.

"Of course we think about that. Yeah, I will be very nervous," he said. "I think it's more of an excitement. I'm not scared at all to go on the Soyuz. The professionals behind this are incredible. I have no doubt in my mind that it's going to be a successful mission. But yes, that nervousness, that excitement will definitely be there. It will be the thrill of a lifetime."

By Bill Harwood

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