Lance Bass Explores His Lifelong Fascination with Space Travel on Podcast Series 'The Last Soviet'

"It's just amazing to hear your life going through this amazing hero of a cosmonaut," Bass tells PEOPLE of his new podcast about Sergei Krikalev

Lance Bass
Photo: Josh Brasted/Getty; iHeart

Lance Bass still remembers the moment he was "bitten by the bug of space travel" — when his family took him to see his first rocket launch in Merritt Island, Florida.

At that point, the *NSYNC alum had a preexisting fascination with space, partly thanks to Nickelodeon's Double Dare and its space-camp grand prize, and maybe even more so thanks to his love for 1986's SpaceCamp. But seeing a rocket enter the sky for the first time marked the moment he was officially sold. Bass wanted to go to space.

"I always loved the idea of traveling, exploring, discovering things," Bass, 43, tells PEOPLE. "So, when they took me to the launch, it was just over at that point. I was like, 'This is what I want to do, and how do I become an astronaut? How do I go up there?'"

While Bass' life plan of becoming a space engineer was derailed due to a certain five-part harmony and a few chart-topping albums, he eventually trained in Star City, Russia to become a certified cosmonaut in 2002 for six months. Now, two decades later, Bass is sharing one of his favorite stories he learned from his time in Russia as narrator of the new podcast, The Last Soviet.

Lance Bass
Space Adventures/Getty

The eight-part series — a production from iHeartPodcasts with Kaleidoscope and Samizdat Audio — tells the story of Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev and his 313 days in space amid the collapse of the USSR. At the time, "hell was Breaking loose in Russia," Bass says, but the astronaut was committed to his work — and just as committed to his country.

As the Soviet Union dissolved in late 1991, Krikalev was left on the Mir space station with an option — come back home to his family and infant child, or stay in space to "man the last outpost of a fallen empire," Bass explains of the podcast he narrates.

"Just to be stuck in space, it's a scary thing," he tells PEOPLE. "You tell someone, 'This guy got stuck in space for 313 days.' How can anyone survive in space — and that's not even the [International Space Station]. We're talking about a smaller station where space madness really hits you. The fact that he survived that and still works in the space program today... He was a hero."

The story within The Last Soviet is one that Bass can empathize with as a trained cosmonaut himself, having been certified by both the Russian Space Program and by NASA for the Soyuz TMA-1 spacecraft mission back in 2002. While the glue to *NSYNC didn't get a taste of space travel after his financial backing fell through before the 2002 mission, he and Krikalev still have something in common.

"Hearing the things when he just got into the program at a young age — all the things he needed and had to go through in Star City, we went through the exact same training," Bass says. "It's just fascinating to hear your life go through this amazing hero of a cosmonaut."

Lance Bass

The first part of The Last Soviet hit streaming platforms on Wednesday, and episodes will drop each following Wednesday. As Bass explains, it's been "taking the most time" to finish recording because of how special the story is to him.

And while Bass says listeners may not have seen "eye to eye" with Russia back then — or currently — he hopes they can understand the importance of Krikalev's story and that cosmonauts and astronauts have a lot more in common than one might think. "The way that I saw cosmonauts and astronauts working together and sharing space, literally, on the ISS, it's a beautiful thing to see. When I was over there, I was with the Russians, I was not with America... But they had such respect for each other. They just put politics out of it, and it's still like that today."

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As for what Bass learned during his six months of training to become a cosmonaut — besides the fact that nobody would confirm the existence of aliens for him — he says "patience" was critical. Just like the patience he practiced during his boy band days, and a bit like the patience it takes to spend 313 days up above.

"When you're so passionate about something and you want it so badly, it's amazing what you can get your brain to consume."

The Last Soviet's first episode, "Let's Go," is now available to stream via iHeartPodcasts.

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