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Astronaut Kelly: 'Pretty Good Chance' Giffords Can Attend Shuttle Launch


NASA astronaut and space shuttle Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly speaks during a crew news conference in Houston, March 24, 2011

NASA astronaut and space shuttle Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly speaks during a crew news conference in Houston, March 24, 2011

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of the upcoming space shuttle mission, said he thinks there is a "pretty good chance" that his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will be able to attend next month's launch of the shuttle Endeavour. Giffords was critically wounded when a shooter went on a rampage and killed six people in Arizona on January 8.

Kelly says his wife is doing "remarkably well" 10 weeks after she was shot in the head while meeting with constituents in Arizona.

"She is improving every day, and in the realm of brain injuries, that is very significant and pretty rare," said Kelly. "She is starting to walk, talk more - more every day - and she is starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went through in January. She is going through that as we speak."

In late January, Giffords was moved from a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, to a rehabilitation center in Houston, Texas, where Kelly trains at the Johnson Space Center. Kelly said he sees Giffords at the start and end of each work day.

He said Giffords remains in a good mood, despite the emotional and physical toll, and spends most of her days in therapy. He said she enjoys brief visits with friends, colleagues and staffers who keep her up-to-date on the happenings in Washington and her congressional district.

Astronaut Kelly said he wants Giffords to attend next month's launch and she feels the same.

"And I think there's a pretty good chance that's going to happen," he said. "We still don't know for sure, and I'm just awaiting, you know, final approval from her doctors."

Kelly made the comments Thursday during a news conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

In the weeks after the shooting, it was unclear if Kelly would still take part in the mission, but Kelly resumed training as commander after taking one month of personal leave to care for his wife.

Kelly called it a "bittersweet privilege" to command Endeavour on its final mission. Endeavour is set to launch April 19. During the 14-day mission, Endeavour will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) and spare parts to the International Space Station.

Kelly's twin brother, Scott, who is also an astronaut, returned from space last week. Mark Kelly said Scott visited Giffords upon his return, which made her "really happy."

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