Shot US Congresswoman Giffords aims to watch space launch

The astronaut husband of wounded US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said that she wants to be at his shuttle launch next month.

The astronaut husband of wounded US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords said that she wants to be at his shuttle launch next month.

She will be, he said, pending final approval from her doctors.

Ms Giffords is beginning to cope with the shooting in January that injured 12 others and killed six, Mark Kelly said.

She’s doing “remarkably well,” he told reporters at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre.

The congresswoman was shot in the head in Tucson, Arizona, while meeting with constituents.

“She’s improving every day – and in the realm of brain injuries that is very significant and pretty rare,” Mr Kelly said. “She’s starting to walk, talk more – more every day.”

Two weeks ago, Ms Giffords’ doctors said she does not remember the shooting, but Mr Kelly told her about it.

“She’s starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went through in January,” her husband said. “Despite that, she remains in a very good mood.”

Mr Kelly spoke at the traditional pre-flight news conference for shuttle crews.

With all six crew members wearing turquoise “Gabby” wristbands, Mr Kelly spoke first, reading from a statement before the astronauts took questions.

He said he wanted reporters to focus on the shuttle mission, not his wife’s recovery.

His identical twin and fellow astronaut Scott Kelly arrived in Houston last week after five months aboard the International Space Station, and visited with Ms Giffords the next day.

“She was really happy to see my brother last week after he returned from space,” Mark Kelly said.

Mark Kelly, 47, is the commander of Nasa’s next-to-last shuttle flight.

Shuttle Endeavour is due to blast off for the final time on April 19, carrying up a $2bn physics experiment to the space station. The fleet is retiring after shuttle Atlantis makes one last trip to the space station this summer, ending the 30-year-old shuttle programme.

Mr Kelly quit training after his wife was shot. But a month later he decided to fly the two-week mission. At the time, he said he hoped his wife would be able to attend the launch.

He said there’s “a pretty good chance” she will make the launch.

“We still don’t know for sure,” he said. “I’m just awaiting final approval from her doctors.

As one of Nasa’s biggest supporters in Congress, “She wants to attend. She’s been looking forward to this for a long time,” he said.

Ms Giffords, 40, a Democrat, served on the House Science and Technology Committee, and took on Nasa affairs while heading the space subcommittee.

Ms Giffords has not been seen publicly since the shooting, and almost certainly would view the launch from a restricted area reserved for the crew’s families at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Within two weeks of the shooting, Ms Giffords was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston. Mr Kelly said he sees her every morning before work and at the end of the day.

Until the shooting, the couple, who married in 2007, split their time between Arizona, Texas and Washington.

Mr Kelly said he has been able to focus on training for the shuttle mission.

It would have been “really challenging,” he said, if this was his first shuttle flight, or even his first time as a shuttle commander. He has flown three times on shuttles, once as commander in 2008.

“I’ve given this mission everything I would have if the events of January did not happen. So I’m very focused. We’re very prepared as a crew,” he said.

He noted the launch is fast approaching. “We’re getting pretty close to the end and we’re ready to do this, and excited about it.”

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