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NX Express

Wounded Congresswoman’s Husband Will Fly on Shuttle

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The astronaut Mark E. Kelly, husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, will command the space shuttle mission in April that he was assigned to before his wife was shot, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced on Friday.


Captain Kelly did not discuss details about his wife’s condition during a news conference Friday, but he said he is confident she supports his decision to go back into space.


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


Whether Captain Kelly would fly on the two-week trip to the International Space Station in the midst of a family crisis has been a question in the background since Ms. Giffords was shot in the head and critically injured near Tucson on Jan. 8.


Captain Kelly, a Navy officer and who flew 39 combat missions in the Persian Gulf War, came to the decision along with NASA officials, who must decide whether its crew members are able to fulfill their roles.


Family crises have led shuttle crew members to remove themselves from past missions. In 1997, Jeffrey S. Ashby, a retired Navy captain, was replaced on what would have been his first shuttle mission because of his wife’s cancer.


Mr. Ashby would go on to fly on three later shuttle missions. But with the space shuttle program now winding down, Captain Kelly, who has flown on three previous missions, would almost certainly have lost his last chance to command the shuttle if he had decided not to fly this time.


NASA had prepared for the possibility of having to replace Captain Kelly by naming a backup commander, Frederick W. Sturckow. But officials made it clear that Captain Kelly was still commander of the mission, pending any contrary decision.


Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/05/us/05kelly.html?ref=us

Note: Image from wikipedia.org.

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