Navy Captain Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, is Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s husband. Mark Edward Kelly was scheduled to pilot the final mission of the Space Shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station. However, following the tragic events on Saturday, January 8 in Tuscon, AZ, he is currently by his wife’s side as she recovers from a near fatal head wound. As it was, his Endeavour flight to the space station, which had originally scheduled for February, had been postponed until April due to cracks in the main external fuel tank of the Space Shuttle Discovery, which was supposed to be launched back on December 2nd of last year. It will probably be some weeks before a decision is made if he will be replaced as Endeavour’s commander. His twin brother, Scott Kelly, is currently orbiting the Earth on board the ISS.

Mark Edward Kelly Astronaut
Navy Captain Mark Edward Kelly, Astronaut. Image Source:

Born on February 21st, 1964 in Orange, New Jersey, Mark Kelly attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy after graduating from Mountain High School in 1982. He earned bachelor degrees in both marine engineering and marine transportation and highest honors in 1986. He rounded out his education with a masters in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School in 1994.

In 1987, Kelly became a Navy aviator and was soon flying A-6E Intruders, a carrier-borne all weather attack/strike jet. During Operation Desert Storm, he flew 39 combat missions, earning numerous awards and commendations, including four Air medals with combat “V”. In 1993, he joined the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School and the following year joined the Carrier Suitability Department at the Navy’s facility in Patuxent River, Maryland. As a member of the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron, he flew A-6E, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare jet and the F-18 Hornet. Kelly advanced to the role of a test pilot instructor

April of 1996 is when Mark Kelly was chosen by NASA for astronaut training. He since has made three space flights. On December 5, 2001, Kelly was pilot for STS-108 and flew the Space Shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station. During that mission, in addition to a crew change for the ISS, Endeavour also delivered supplies and the Raffaelo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module. During his twelve days in space, Kelly performed a space walk, orbited the Earth 185 times and traveled 4.8 million miles.

On July 4th, 2006, Kelly served again as pilot for STS-121, this time flying the Space Shuttle Discovery. Again, the thirteen-day mission took Mark Kelly to the International Space Station, carrying a new crew for the ISS and some 28,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. On May 31st, 2008, Kelly once more boarded the Discovery for a mission to the ISS, but this time as mission commander. STS-124 lasted fourteen days and delivered Japan’s Experiment Module, the Kibo lab, and a new robotic arm.

Captain Mark Edward Kelly, astronaut, is currently scheduled to be mission commander for STS-134, Endeavour’s final flight. The mission will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station, designed to study cosmic particles that may unlock secrets of dark matter and antimatter in our universe. Kelly, who has two children from a previous marriage, became engaged to Congresswoman Gabreille Giffords of Tuscon, Arizona in 2006. They were married on November 20, 2007, a ceremony which was attended by former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. Mark Kelly had met ‘Gabby’ Giffords in 2003 while both served on the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. They met again in 2004, at which time Kelly was divorced and began a long-distance friendship that eventually led to marriage. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords serves on Congressional Science and Technology Committee overseeing NASA where her husband, Mark Kelly, and brother-in-law, Scott J. Kelly work as astronauts.

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