When a Russian spaceship docked as a lifeboat for three stranded men at the International Space Station in February, one may have wondered if Sergei Krikalev, heading the rescue mission, felt any deja vu.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also sometimes known as “
Today, Krikalev, the former cosmonaut, is the executive director of human spaceflight for the Russian space agency. That means it’s on his watch to make sure
Krikalev’s story of being stranded in space is now getting a perhaps overdue spotlight with a new podcast series called “The Last Soviet.” And it’s being told by another cosmonaut, Lance Bass.
If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also sometimes known as the other blond heartthrob in NSYNC. That’s right: the Lance Bass, who sang “Tearin’ up my heart” with JT, who had a cameo in Zoolander, a satire on the very serious ambitions of beautiful people.
Bass, now 43, might seem an unlikely bard for a podcast about the fall of the Iron Curtain and a space mission gone awry that left Krikalev without a country. Few may remember that boy-band member Bass almost made it to space on a Soyuz spacecraft himself. In 2002, he spent about six months, off and on, training in Star City, Russia, and was
In a recent interview with Mashable, Bass said he learned about Krikalev’s story while training on a Russian military base for his own mission. From then on, he considered the cosmonaut a personal hero.
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“I heard it from other people, my professors, after class,” Bass said. “We would always kind of bond, and that’s where you would sometimes go into the sauna and drink vodka and beat each other with branches, and they would very brilliantly tell their stories of their history.”
“The funny thing is,” he continued, “I have no idea if I’ve met him or not.”
The podcast, an
Credit: NASA screenshot
“You would sometimes go into the sauna and drink vodka and beat each other with branches, and they would very brilliantly tell their stories of their history.”
Still, that global hostility has made bringing Krikalev’s story to listeners challenging, Bass said.
“Unfortunately, because of the war, Russia is not allowing him to speak, especially to American podcasters,” he said. “But we did get his friends and family and colleagues, and we really get the story of him through their eyes.”
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It’s not clear if Krikalev was prevented from participating. He recently joined a NASA news conference and obliged questions from U.S. reporters on the status of the leaky Soyuz spacecraft. He spoke of working “together with our NASA colleagues” to minimize safety risks. Roscosmos, however, did not return a request for comment from Mashable regarding the podcast.
The series, which
At the time, NSYNC was on the last leg of its final tour, Justin Timberlake wanted to pursue a solo album, and Bass was figuring out his next career moves. Aside from the singer’s childhood love of space, the idea of becoming a cosmonaut seemed so random to Bass.
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“I thought it was a joke at first because it just sounds silly to even say,” he said. “I really did think Ashton Kutcher was ‘punking’ me because that was such a huge show.”
Soon he found himself in a U.S. hospital undergoing a surgical procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat that could have otherwise prevented him from space flight. Then, he was on a plane to a Russian military base, immersed in a new language, and cramming astrophysics lessons.
There were parabolic flights and rides on
The preparations ended unceremoniously, two weeks before his rocket launch. Without the payment, Roscosmos gave his seat to another cosmonaut.
Now, with so many opportunities for private citizens to fly to space with Virgin Galactic,
Meanwhile, as others ponder Krikalev’s space legacy, he’s not done composing it. The recently
Both the Russian space program and NASA
“We know that situation is not very good,” Krikalev said then, “but it’s not a situation with deadend where we don’t have any solution.”