LOS ANGELES — The great space race is back on among reality TV producers.
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Several projects revolving around the concept of sending rookie astronauts into outer space are being shopped around town these days.
Phil Gurin, who worked with pop star Lance Bass to chronicle his 2002 astro-training experience in Russia, is developing a project that would involve ordinary folks training and competing to land one seat on a Russian space flight.
The Bass project never gelled, in part because they couldn't come up with the $20 million needed to reserve Bass' seat on the Russian space agency's Soyuz spacecraft.
Bass is still attached to Gurin's new project, but instead of focusing on the singer's adventures, the show "will involve an ordinary civilian competing for a chance to go into space," Gurin said.
Meanwhile, it's understood that reality veteran Craig Piligian is developing a space-based project with a competitive element that is said to involve millionaires competing for the privilege of becoming a space tourist. Piligian did not return calls seeking comment.
And the reigning king of unscripted drama, Mark Burnett ("Survivor," "The Apprentice") is known to still have his eye on the space sector. Burnett was poised to blast off with NBC in 2001 with the $40 million "Destination Mir" series that was designed to send the victor up to the now-defunct Russian space station Mir. But that project never took off because of numerous obstacles, not the least of which was the disintegration of the aging Mir facility. (NBC is a partner in the MSNBC joint venture.)
The Arlington, Va.-based Space Adventures Ltd., the private company that made California millionaire Dennis Tito the first space tourist by arranging his $20 million trip in a Russian space craft in April 2001, also is understood to be playing a pivotal role in the primetime space race.
Space Adventures spokesman Robert Volmer confirmed Friday that the company is in discussions with multiple TV outlets for series revolving around planned Russian flights in October 2005 and April 2006, but he would not elaborate.
Despite all the activity among producers, there's considerable skepticism about the viability of a space-travel-based series among network buyers because of the high cost involved and the logistical difficulties of setting up live coverage of the flight itself.
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