Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Station commander Kelly discusses Giffords shooting

International Space Station commander Scott Kelly said this morning he's optimistic about the recovery of his sister-in-law, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, from a gunshot wound and said brother Mark Kelly will likely decide within a few weeks whether to continue as commander of shuttle Endeavour's final flight.

"We’re all optimistic about her outcome," he said of Giffords, who was shot Jan. 8 during a rampage in Tuscon, Ariz., that killed six and injured 18 others outside a supermarket where the Democratic congresswoman was meeting with constituents.

"I think he’s coping as well as you can in this type of situation," he added about his brother, Giffords' husband, in an interview with KRTK-Houston.

Asked if Mark Kelly would continue to lead the 134th shuttle mission, which is targeted for launch April 19, Scott Kelly said he didn't know.

"It’s possible, and it’s also possible that he might not be," he said. "It’s a decision that he’ll make in consultation with the astronaut office and other folks at NASA. There are a lot of things to consider, but I think he’ll make the right decision. I think it will also weigh what Gabby would want in this scenario. I think we’ll know something about that in a couple weeks, within a few weeks from now."

NASA has named Rick Sturckow the mission's backup commander if Kelly decides not to make the flight.

Scott Kelly described how he learned of the shooting. He was alerted in orbit more than 200 miles above Earth that he would soon get a private call from Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson.

"When you hear that you’re kind of expecting bad news," he said.

Since then, he's spoken with his brother and children multiple times a day and had more continuous access to news updates. He said he's trying to focus on the potential positive outcomes from the event.

"I’d like to see maybe more teamwork with people not only in our government, but everyone in meeting the challenges our country faces," he said. "Hopefully if something good can come out of something like this it’s that we learn to work better together."

Mark Kelly will be featured in an interview with ABC anchor Diane Sawyer tonight at 10 p.m. on a special episode of “20/20″ called "The Congresswoman and the Astronaut: An American Story of Love and Strength."

IMAGE: International Space Station commander Scott Kelly answers media questions this morning.

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