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MOSCOW, Russia (AP) — Russia’s biggest television station announced Tuesday it was teaming up with the country’s space agency to create a reality show that will be literally out of this world.

The show will follow contestants as they go through the rigorous training required for cosmonauts, and the winner will spend a week on the Russian segment of the International Space Station, said Channel 1, also known as ORT.

The station said it planned to send the first winner to space in the fall of 2003.

A recent attempt to combine space travel and entertainment failed when pop star Lance Bass was excluded from the crew that is to fly to the space station this month. Bass, of the group ‘N Sync, was unable to come up with the US$20 million fee, and Russian space officials said on September 3 that he would not be part of the crew despite weeks of training. A seven-part television documentary was planned around his flight.

“We closely followed the development of the epic around the flights of space tourists and proposed a TV project that would demonstrate the space achievements of our country and give the winner a chance to go to space,” Channel 1 director Konstantin Ernst said in the station’s press release.

The station quoted Yuri Koptev, head of the Russian Space Agency, as saying the project was “attractive and promising,” for the country’s space program.

Space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said the agency had signed a preliminary agreement with Channel 1. He told the Interfax news agency that a final contract would be signed in a month or two.

Gorbunov said any television viewer could apply to participate in the project. Through various tests and competitions, the participants will be narrowed down to 15-20 people, “who will then undergo the medical examination necessary to be admitted to special training” at Russia’s cosmonaut training center, he said, according to Interfax.

In the past two years, Russia has sent two paying tourists to the space station as a way to raise money for its cash-strapped space program. California millionaire Dennis Tito and South African Internet tycoon Mark Shuttleworth paid about US$20 million each for their trips.