Astronaut Mark Kelly said yesterday (March 24) that there's a good chance his wife, wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will be able to attend his upcoming launch on the space shuttle Endeavour next month.
Giffords, D-Ariz., is recovering in a Houston hospital after being shot in the head during a Jan. 8 attack on a public event at a Tucson grocery store. Whether or not Giffords ultimately watches her husband's liftoff in person largely depends on her health, Kelly said. [Photos: Shuttle Endeavour's Final Mission]
"I've said on a few occasions that I'd like her to attend the launch," Kelly told reporters yesterday during a press conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "She wants to attend. And I think there's a pretty good chance that's going to happen. We still don't know for sure, and I'm just awaiting final approval from her doctors."
Kelly said his wife, who has served as chairwoman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, has long been planning to watch her husband blast off on Endeavour.
"She's been looking forward to this for a long time," Kelly said."As one of NASA's biggest supporters in Congress, she was really looking forward to having the opportunity to be there."
By all accounts, Giffords has been making exceptional progress in her recovery, though the road is long and hard for such a serious injury.
"She's doing remarkably well," Kelly said. "She's improving every day. She's starting to walk, talk more every day, and she's starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went though in January."
After his opening remarks yesterday, which included an update on his wife's condition, Kelly asked reporters to stick to questions about the space mission that was the topic of the briefing. He canceled the rest of his one-on-one interviews scheduled for the day out of concerns that the media would focus on Giffords and not on Endeavour's flight.
The mission, STS-134, will be the last voyage for Endeavour and the second-to-last space shuttle flight ever before NASA retires its three-orbiter fleet this summer.
Kelly and his crewmates are slated to deliver a $2 billion astrophysics experiment to the International Space Station that will hunt for energetic particles called cosmic rays. Endeavour's mission will also bring a vital load of spare supplies to the station to help outfit it for the era after the shuttles retire.
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Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the Space.com team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.