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Mike Fincke: Sharing his adventure of a lifetime

Last May, Astronaut Mike Fincke participated in a media tour in Pittsburgh. Here, Mike speaks with reporter Chris Moore in a live television interview on WQED TV. 
Mike was recently named to Expedition 9, his first mission.
Last May, Astronaut Mike Fincke participated in a media tour in Pittsburgh. Here, Mike speaks with reporter Chris Moore in a live television interview on WQED TV. Mike was recently named to Expedition 9, his first mission.
"This is the real adventure," Astronaut Mike Fincke said as he skillfully navigated a rental car through the crowded but familiar streets of Pittsburgh.

The adventure he spoke of was not the act of driving through snarled traffic but rather the trip itself. Mike had just left a handful of dazzled children and wide-eyed adults - each thrilled to hear him speak about all things NASA at the Carnegie Science Center. It mirrored the same excitement local media exuded as they interviewed their very own hometown hero.

For Mike, the "real adventure" is sharing his passion for space exploration with the many faces of the public and media.

A member of the 1996 Astronaut Candidate Class, Mike has never been to space. Yet, to hear him talk about his excitement to someday live aboard the International Space Station was enough to capture the imagination of all who encountered him. And for Mike, there was no better place to do it than on his first media tour in the city where he was once a 3 year old dreaming of becoming an astronaut.

Although he served as backup for two Expedition missions to the Space Station, he had no definite timeline of when he would leave Earth's orbit. The idea of living in space for six months was an exciting concept to him, yet the reality of it all was still just beyond his grasp.

That was last May.

Now, nine months later, his first mission is finally happening. And it is happening fast. On Feb. 6, Mike and his long-time training partner, Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, were named as the newest Expedition 9 crew. The announcement set off a flurry of activity, as the two have much to wrap up before their April 18 launch into space aboard a Soyuz capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Mike Fincke is finally going to space.

Mike Fincke, the oldest of Edward and Alma Fincke's nine children. Mike Fincke, the little boy who taught himself how to read just so he could learn about the wonders of space. Mike Fincke, the Pittsburgh kid who dreamed big, is about to start an even bigger adventure.

In the spotlight

Thursday, Feb. 19, 2004 - it is now less than two months until the "eight-year space rookie" fulfills his life's goal. And he will be doing it with a unique distinction: At the age of 37, Mike Fincke will be the youngest Expedition crewmember to live aboard the Space Station.

Click for larger imager
Mike Fincke speaks to the media during the Expedition 9 press conference.
On this day, Mike is introduced at his first-ever press conference. After several weeks of intense crew training mixed with numerous well wishes and a full e-mail box, it is finally Mike's turn in the spotlight.

As he talks to the national media, he still exudes that same passion for his life's work that endeared him to so many back in Pittsburgh last May.

In his statements, Mike stresses that he and Gennady are not venturing into space to simply serve as Space Station caretakers. Not in the slightest. There's critical work to be done, he says, because the orbiting outpost is crucial in furthering President George W. Bush's vision of sending explorers to the Moon and Mars.

Mike and Gennady look forward to advancing what researchers already know about the long-term effects of microgravity on humans living and working in space. They will do this, Mike says, by conducting numerous experiments and by bettering the Space Station's capabilities through two spacewalks.

"This mission looks to be quite challenging," Mike says, "and we've been trained so that we can meet this challenge."

And trained they have been. The two have spent countless hours together working to build a two-person team that symbolizes the spirit of the Space Station's international partnerships.

"We have worked together almost four years. I know his family very well; he knows mine very well, Gennady says. I know Mike very well, he is a very sociable man."

He then adds an understatement that draws laughter from the audience: "He has a good sense of humor, which is very important in space."

From left: European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers, Astronaut Mike Fincke and Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Andre will launch aboard the Soyuz with Mike and Gennady and return to Earth with the Expedition 8 crew about a week later.
From left: European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers, Astronaut Mike Fincke and Russian Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Andre will launch aboard the Soyuz with Mike and Gennady and return to Earth with the Expedition 8 crew about a week later.
European Space Agency Astronaut Andre Kuipers will also launch aboard the Soyuz with Mike and Gennady. Andre will spend about a week aboard the Space Station conducting scientific experiments under a commercial agreement between the European Space Agency and Russia. He will return to Earth with Expedition 8 crewmembers Mike Foale and Alexander Kaleri.

Once that Soyuz undocks and leaves, Mike and Gennady know that a new chapter in space history begins -- and it will have their names on it.

"After we say dos vedanya to our friend Andre, there will only be two of us with a lot of things on our plate," Mike says. "Luckily we have a talented team here in Mission Control who can help us balance those priorities, along with the people in the Space Station program office who can make sure we're focusing on the right things and keep us charged for the next day."

Mike has waited a lifetime to experience such on-the-job challenges. However, he keeps it all in perspective. He knows it is all part of the adventure.

Confidently, Mike says: "Good things come to those who wait."


Melissa Davis
Johnson Space Center, Houston
(281) 483-9978

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Updated: 02/26/2004