herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Giffords' astronaut husband to lead final shuttle mission

The astronaut husband of shot US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said she would embrace his decision to rocket into space in two months -- and he expects her to be well enough to attend the launch.

Space shuttle commander Mark Kelly refused to say whether his wife took part in his decision and declined to go into details about her condition or whether she could communicate.

"I know her very well and she would be very comfortable with the decision that I made," he said.

His decision comes four weeks after Democrat Ms Giffords (40) was shot in the head outside a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket.

Mr Kelly's choice to lead space shuttle Endeavour's final voyage was made easier, he said, by his wife's rapid progress in rehabilitation.

The 46-year-old astronaut said he never imagined in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that he would ever fly the two-week mission. He immediately halted training after the January 8 shooting.

Mr Kelly said he told Ms Giffords' mother Gloria there was no way he would leave his wife's side, but Mrs Giffords responded: "What, are you kidding me?"

Within two weeks, Ms Giffords was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, Texas, and that was when he started reconsidering.



Crew

He weighed up how much time he could spend with her, and how much he needed to be with his crew at Johnson Space Centre on the outskirts of Houston.

"So that's a debate I had with myself," he said. The fact that she's busy all day in rehab was key, he added.

Mr Kelly said their parents, siblings and his teenage daughters were "completely unanimous".

"Everybody felt that this was the right thing for me to do," he said.

He said any critics of his decision did not know his wife, saying: "She is a big supporter of my career, a big supporter of Nasa."

Though doctors described Ms Giffords' early progress as remarkable, they have said very little about her condition.

Houston doctors are not giving updates.

hnews@herald.ie

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