Astronaut Mark Kelly remains at the side of his wife, US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona on January 8. Meantime, his twin brother, Scott Kelly, provides what support he can from 350 kilometers above the earth's surface on the International Space Station.
Since he heard the news of the shooting over a week ago, Scott Kelly has kept in close touch with his brother, Mark, through emails and at least twice-a-day phone calls. They are very long distance calls as Scott is orbiting high above the earth's surface carrying out his duties as the current commander of the International Space Station.
In an earth-to-space-station interview Tuesdasy, Scott told Houston television station KTRK that he does feel some frustration from not being able to be with his brother and Congresswoman Giffords, known affectionately to friends and family as Gabby.
"I would prefer to be there with Gabby and my brother and other friends and family, but I recognize that the best thing I can do, in my situation, which is here on the space station, is just to continue to do my job," said Scott Kelly.
Scott's brother Mark understands that sense of duty well since he is also an astronaut. The identical twins both have degrees in engineering, both served as Navy pilots and both joined the astronaut corps at the same time in 1996.
Scott says he spoke with his brother in the morning and that he is holding up well.
"I spoke to him, actually, this morning. I think he is coping as well as you can in this type of situation," he said. "Certainly, it is very difficult, but I think he is doing as well as you could expect anyone to do."
Mark Kelly is scheduled to be the commander of the space shuttle Endeavor on its last scheduled flight in April. He has flown on three previous shuttle missions. But his ability to carry out that final assignment may depend on how well his wife does in her recovery in the coming weeks. So far, doctors are pleased, noting signs of progress such as her ability to respond to commands and to open her eyes for brief periods.
As for what sense can be made from the Tucson shooting, Scott Kelly says his view from high over earth's surface gives him inspiration that Americans can come together to solve problems just as astronauts do in space.
"The way we deal with challenges in this kind of environment, doing things that are very difficult is through teamwork," said Scott Kelly. "I would like to see, maybe, more teamwork from people, not only in government, but everyone, in meeting the challenges our country faces. Hopefully, if anything good can come out of something like this it is that we learn to work better together."
Scott Kelly is scheduled to end his current assignment as commander of the International Space Station in March.