Michael Fincke is a United States Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut who holds the record for the most time spent in space. He was born Edward Michael Fincke on March 14, 1967 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; however, he grew up in its suburb, Emsworth. Fincke graduated from Sewickley Academy in Sewickley, Pennsylvania in 1985, and subsequently attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on an Air Force ROTC scholarship. He graduated in 1989 as a double major and earned both a Bachelor of Science in aeronautics and astronautics, and a Bachelor of Science in Earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences. Immediately after graduating from MIT, Fincke went through a summer exchange program with the Moscow Aviation Institute in Russia, where he studied Cosmonautics. When he returned to the States, Fincke transferred to Stanford University and earned a Master of Science in aeronautics and astronautics in 1990. Following his graduation from Stanford, he entered the United States Air Force. His initial assignment was as a Space Systems Engineer and a Space Test Engineer at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in California. In 1994, after completing United States Air Force Test Pilot School, Fincke moved to Florida and joined the 39th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, where he served as a Flight Test Engineer. In January 1996, he was assigned to be the United States Flight Test Liaison to the Japanese/United States XF-2 fighter program at the Gifu Test Center at Gifu Air Base in Japan.
In April 1996, Fincke was chosen to be a NASA astronaut, and he reported to the Johnson Space Center the following August. After two years of training, he was assigned to work in the Astronaut Office Station Operations Branch to work as an International Space Station Spacecraft Communicator, a member of the Crew Test Support Team in Russia, and the ISS crew procedures team lead. Fincke was assigned as a backup crew member for two missions, Expeditions 4 and 6, before he launched into space. In May 2002, he served as commander of the second NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations mission, where the entire crew lived and worked underwater for seven days. Almost a year later, Fincke was launched into space for the first time. In 2001, he earned a second Master of Science in planetary geology from the University of Houston–Clear Lake. He also attended El Camino College in Torrance, California, where he studied Japanese and Geology.
Fincke was the space station science officer and flight engineer for ISS Expedition 9, which launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz TMA-4 spacecraft on April 18, 2004 and docked with the ISS three days later. During his six month assignment, Fincke performed science operations, maintained station systems, and carried out four spacewalks, making a total of fifteen hours of EVA time. The Expedition 9 mission ended with a safe landing back in Kazakhstan on October 23, 2004. Fincke served as the back-up Commander for Expedition 13 and Expedition 16, and then commanded Expedition 18. He was launched into space aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 and arrived at the International Space Station on October 14, 2008 and returned to Earth on April 8, 2009 aboard the TMA-13 spacecraft. Fincke’s third flight to space was his first flight aboard an American Space Shuttle. He was a mission specialist on STS-134, which was the final flight for the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The almost month long mission launched on May 16, 2011 to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an Express Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station. Fincke performed three spacewalks before the mission landed on June 1, 2011. During his career, Fincke has made an appearance on many television shows, including multiple episodes of Star Trek and children’s shows. Currently, he is a USAF Colonel. He belongs to the Geological Society of America and the British Interplanetary Society, and he is fluent in Japanese and Russian. Fincke has logged 381 days in space, holding the record amongst American astronauts for the most time in space.
Image Caption: Edward Michael Fincke, NASA astronaut. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia