Astronaut's Wife, Rep. Giffords, Discharged From Hospital
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was surrounded by her mother, one of her staff members and a close friend during this photoshoot at her hospital in Houston.
Credit: P.K. Weis, SouthwestPhotoBank.com

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, wife of astronaut Mark Kelly, was discharged from her Houston hospital today (June 15) and will now begin outpatient treatment, five months after being critically injured in a failed assassination attempt.

Doctors treating Giffords, D-Ariz., say her cognitive abilities and physical strength have improved to the point where she no longer needs to remain a full-time patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann, a rehabilitation hospital in Houston.

"Congresswoman Giffords has shown clear, continuous improvement from the moment she arrived at TIRR five months ago," said Gerard Francisco, the hospital's chief medical officer, in a statement. "We are very excited that she has reached the next phase of her rehabilitation and can begin outpatient treatment. We have no doubt that she will continue to make significant strides in her recovery."

Giffords suffered a gunshot wound to the head on Jan. 8 during a shooting spree at a constituent meeting in Tucson, Ariz.

After four months, she had recovered enough to travel to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. to see her husband and his five crewmates launch to the International Space Station on the space shuttle Endeavour on May 16.

Kelly and Endeavour's STS-134 crew returned to Earth on June 1, after completing the second-to-last mission of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program. [Photos of Shuttle Endeavour's Final Launch]

"Gabby gives her all to everything she does and that's exactly what she's been doing at TIRR since Jan. 26," Kelly said in a statement. "The remarkable progress she has made since then is a testament to both her single-minded determination to get better and the team of medical professionals overseeing her care."

The first photos of the Arizona congresswoman since the shooting were released on June 12. Giffords posed for the photos the day before she underwent cranioplasty surgery to have a piece of her skull replaced with a ceramic implant, around which bone cells will grow in time.

As an outpatient, Giffords will continue her intensive therapy program. She will move back into the home she shares with Kelly in League City, Tex., where she will be assisted by a 24-hour home health provider.

 "Anyone who knows Gabby knows that she loves being outside," Kelly said. "Living and working in a rehab facility for five months straight has been especially challenging for her. She will still go to TIRR each day but from now on, when she finishes rehab, she will be with her family."

Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.