HOUSTON — Space shuttle Endeavour's commander, Mark Kelly, may be orbiting 220 miles above the planet, but he will be able to share some of his spaceflight experience with his wife, wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, back on Earth.
Kelly will have a video conference with Giffords tonight (May 26) that should last about 20 to 30 minutes, and he plans to hold it from the ultimate sightseeing vista: a seven-window observation dome called the Cupola that overlooks the Earth. [Amazing Astronaut Photos of Earth from Space]
"I plan to do it from the Cupola, to give her a chance to look outside, and look at the space shuttle docked to the space station," Kelly told reporters in a live interview this morning. "That's an incredible view. I've been speaking to her every night before I go to bed. It'll be nice to do it by video, see how she's doing and have her join us on space station for a little bit."
Giffords, D-Ariz., suffered a gunshot wound to the head in January, in an assassination attempt at a community outreach event in Tucson, Ariz. Six other people were killed in the attack.
She has reportedly made exceptional progress in her rehabilitation so far, and was able to travel to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., to see her husband launch on Endeavour's final mission. [Wounded Rep. Giffords: Shuttle Launch Is 'Good Stuff']
Just two days after Endeavour's launch on May 16, Giffords underwent cranioplasty surgery at Memorial Hospital in Houston while her husband and his shuttle crewmates docked their vehicle at the International Space Station. During the surgical procedure, doctors replaced a piece of Giffords' skull with a plastic implant.
"I think she still has bandages on," Kelly said. "I haven't really thought about what to expect."
And while Kelly has been able to speak to Giffords and the rest of his family from space via satellite phone, being able to see his wife, and perhaps more poignantly, for her to see the space station and Earth, will be a special moment. [Photos of Shuttle Endeavour's Final Launch]
"Hopefully it'll be on a day pass, so I can show her some neat views of the Earth," Kelly said.
Endeavour's STS-134 astronaut crew is currently flying a 16-day mission to deliver a $2 billion astrophysics experiment and other supplies to the International Space Station. It is the 25th and final flight of Endeavour before the shuttle is retired along with the rest of NASA's orbiter fleet later this year.