Today, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, astronaut Mark Kelly, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, announced he’ll be going to space again. He has decided to resume command of the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last flight. Peggy Whiston, NASA’s chief astronaut, supports his decision as did back-up commander Rick Sturckow. Returning to training full time for STS-134, Mark Kelly will fly the space shuttle mission in April to the International Space Station where his identical twin brother, Scott Kelly, currently commands. Kelly’s decision to fly is based on the extraordinary progress his wife is making at the Tirr Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Center.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was severely wounded while meeting constiuents in her Arizona 8th District in Tuscon four weeks ago. Suspect Jared Loughner faces charges for killing 6 and wounding 13 others including Giffords. Navy Captain Mark Kelly described how doctors in Tuscon had cautioned him during the early stages of his wife’s recovery from the shooting. They warned him that ’set backs” could occur. But Gabby Giffords has instead showed continuous progress after surviving a nearly fatal head wound.
Kelly explained during his ‘presser’ that part of the decision was made based on his wife’s schedule during her rehab at the Tirr Center. He said that her days will be busy ones from 8am till 6pm with speech, occupational and other physical therapies. At the rate she is progressing, Gabby may be able to attend the Endeavour’s launch from Cape Canaveral on April 19. He added that his wife supports his decision to fly one more time.
A veteran of three shuttle flights, Kelly joined NASA in 1996, He last flew Atlantis in 2008 and has been training for the past 18 months. STS-134 is scheduled to deliver additional supplies to the ISS along with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Endeavour’s final flight was originally to be NASA’s last space shuttle mission. But following the Obama administration’s decision to eliminate it’s replacement, the Constellation program, NASA has added one addition flight for Atlantis, STS-135, scheduled for June of this year, marking and end of 30 years for shuttle operations. She will carry an all-important ammonia pump for the ISS cooling system. Endeavour’s first flight was in 1992 and was the replacement for the lost Challenger.
So Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, is going back to space again. The mission will be his fourth and mark the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last flight into Earth orbit. Kelly has been on personal leave since the January 8 shooting in Tuscon where his wife, Gabrielle Giffords was wounded. News from there today emerged as Federal and state prosecutors have requested hand writing samples from suspect Jared Loughner, accused of killing 6 and wounding 13 during Giffords’ public event in her Arizona 8th District. Mark Kelly said that his wife is making remarkable progress in her recovery at Tirr Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston.