Monday, May 30, 2011

Kelly: I made the right decision to fly

A little more than 24 hours from a planned 2:35 a.m. Wednesday touchdown at Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour commander Mark Kelly told reporters he's happy with his decision to fly while his wife recovered from a gunshot wound.

"In hindsight, it was absolutely the right decision," he said.

Kelly's wife, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head Jan. 8 during an assassination attempt at a constituent event in Tucson.

She watched Kelly's May 16 launch from Kennedy Space Center and two days later, while Kelly and Endeavour were arriving at the International Space Station, underwent surgery to replace part of her skull.

"It was really a special moment," Kelly said of Giffords' attendance at the launch. "Being away from her, to be honest, it's difficult. Fortunately, there's a phone on the space station, there's e-mail, we can communicate, and I'm looking forward to getting back there (Wednesday)."

"I don't have any regrets," Kelly continued. "Her recovery went well enough and things lined up where she was able to go to rehab in Houston that I was able to rejoin my crew and complete this mission."

Kelly and five crewmates awoke at 6:56 p.m. today to begin their last full day in space.

After a round of media interviews, their focus tonight is testing thrusters and aerodynamic surfaces that will be used to control Endeavour's descent through the atmosphere and glide to landing.

The crew plans a tribute to Endeavour, which is wrapping up its 25-flight career, at 12:26 a.m. Tuesday.

Then at 5 a.m., Tony Ceccacci, the flight director for Endeavour's re-entry, will provide a briefing on the latest weather forecast and landing plans.

The latest forecast from the Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center has improved, with crosswinds at Kennedy Space Center no longer expected to violate landing criteria.

"I think these guys are looking forward to a soft landing," said Kelly. "I'm going to try to give them one."

Click here for the latest NASA TV schedule with upcoming mission highlights and here for the Flight Day 16 package of notes Mission Control sent to the crew.

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