Image: Fincke family
Sergey Ponomarev  /  AP file
In a photo from April 2004, NASA astronaut Michael Fincke stands alongside his wife, Renita, and holds his son, Edward Chandra, during a photo opportunity at Russia's Star City cosmonaut training complex. The astronaut now has a daughter as well, named Tarali.
By Aerospace Writer
updated 6/18/2004 7:10:45 PM ET 2004-06-18T23:10:45

Space station astronaut Mike Fincke was listening in from orbit Friday when he got the good news: It’s a girl.

His wife Renita Fincke gave birth to their second child at a Houston-area hospital — just two days before Father’s Day. The astronaut was connected via a NASA-arranged radio hookup to his wife’s cell phone in the delivery room, a family friend said.

NASA officials said it was the first time to their knowledge that a U.S. astronaut was in space during the birth of his child.

The couple named the girl Tarali Paulina. Fincke proudly informed Mission Control that Tara — the first two syllables of the name — means “star” in the Indian dialect of his wife’s family. Their son, who is not quite 3, is named Chandra, which means “moon.”

“My wife had already given me the moon, now she’s given me a star,” he said.

Video link for Dad
NASA also arranged two video conferences for the family in the hours after the birth to give Fincke a chance to see his newborn, family friend Judith Hayes said.

Both baby and mom, an engineer who works at Johnson Space Center in Houston, were said to be doing well.

Mike Fincke, a 37-year-old Air Force lieutenant colonel who is two months into a six-month mission, said it was a privilege to be aboard the international space station at such a special time, but noted it was tough on his family. “But there are a lot of other service people out there that this happens to. So thanks, NASA,” he said.

“This is sure a grand adventure, and I’m really glad that we’re all sharing this together,” he said.

His wife plans to send up lots more baby pictures and videos, with NASA’s help.

Last-minute crew swaps
Fincke wasn’t supposed to fly to the space station until months from now, but his mission with Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka was bumped up because of last-minute crew swaps. The two men rocketed away from Kazakhstan in April; they will return to Earth in October.

On Friday afternoon, Fincke offered his cosmonaut partner a bubble-gum cigar “colored pink in honor of my daughter.” The bubble-gum cigars also were handed out in Mission Control.

In a NASA interview shortly before the birth of her daughter, Renita Fincke said she supported her husband all the way.

“I hope that everything is successful for his mission, that he comes home safely and that we get to enjoy many more adventures together for the rest of our lives,” she said.

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