Space Commander Has Cake, Eats it Too

For Space Commander, Birthday Wishes From Earth
NASA astronaut Michael Fincke, Expedition 18 commander, smiles for a photo in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station during the first few hours since his arrival on the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft on Oct. 14, 2008. (Image credit: NASA.)

The space shuttle Discovery may be installing a massive16-ton solar power plant at the International Space Station today, but itsastronaut crew also packed something a little sweeter for the orbiting lab?sveteran commander.

Discovery skipper Lee Archambault made sure his crew packedaway a small chocolate cake in the spacecraft?s cupboards for NASA astronautMichael Fincke, who celebratedhis 42nd birthday last Saturday - a day before the shuttle launched.

?We had a stowaway, very chocolate-y cake,? shuttleastronaut John Phillips radioed Mission Control late Wednesday while beamingdown some video. ?The crew does have some chocolate fans, so they were glad tosee some fresh chocolate.?

Chocolate isa luxury on the space station, chocolate cake even more so. NASA astronautSandra Magnus, who has lived on the station since November, told that she made a specialrequest for extra chocolate when a Russian cargo ship launched to theoutpost last month.

Archambault said he and his crew sang a belated ?HappyBirthday? to Fincke after they arrived at the station on Tuesday while thestation commander somersaulted in weightlessness. Fincke has lived aboard thestation since last October and will return to Earth next month.

?Eventually, the song ended and we got that cake open,? saidArchambault, who also handed out matching crew shirts to Fincke, Magnus andtheir third crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov.

Phillips said Fincke?s birthday cake was baked by fellow NASAastronaut Marsha Ivins. It was rich and tasty, fairly crumbly in zero gravityuntil the astronauts started taking bigger, more put-together pieces, he said.

With their makeshift party over, the 10 astronauts aboardDiscovery and the International Space Station will perform thefirst of three spacewalks planned for their mission later today.

Discovery astronauts are replacing a member of the station?sthree-person crew and delivering a $298 million set of solar wings, the lastmajor American-built piece of the orbital laboratory, during their 13-daymission. is providing continuous coverage of STS-119with reporter Clara Moskowitz and senior editor Tariq Malik in New York. Click here for missionupdates and's live NASA TV video feed.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.