HOUSTON (AP) - The astronaut husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Friday his wounded wife would embrace his decision to rocket into space in two months and he expects her to be well enough to be at his launch.
Space shuttle commander Mark Kelly refused to say whether the congresswoman took part in his decision and declined to go into details about her condition or whether she can communicate.
“I know her very well and she would be very comfortable with the decision that I made,” Kelly told reporters.
His decision, announced Friday, comes just four weeks after Giffords was shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket. His choice to lead space shuttle Endeavour’s final voyage was made easier, he said, by his wife’s rapid progress in rehab.
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 quit training after the Jan. 8 shooting.
Within two weeks, Giffords was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, and that’s when he started reconsidering. He weighed how much time he could spend with her, and how much he needed to be with his crew at Johnson Space Center 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.
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.
Kelly said any critics of his decision don’t know his wife.
“She is a big supporter of my career, a big supporter of NASA,” he said.
Giffords‘ bullet wound was devastating. Though doctors described her early progress as remarkable, they have said very little about her condition. Houston doctors are not giving updates.
In the first several days after the shooting, she gave a thumbs up and was able to stand with help. She massaged her husband’s neck, picked out colors on an iPad and playfully took the ring off a nurse’s finger. Friends and Kelly described her as able to understand them.
But rehab experts say her progress will be slow, and the head of the hospital where she’s staying said doctors will help her reach “a new normal.”