Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kelly Plans To Show Giffords Space Station

The critically wounded wife of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly is "doing really, really well" after recent skull surgery, but its unlikely she'll attend the shuttle's return to Earth next week.

"We haven't made the decision yet. But I think actually at this point, it's probably unlikely that she's going to attend the landing," Kelly said during space-to-ground interviews late Wednesday.

The planned June 1 landing "is about 2:30 in the morning. It's going to be dark. If you've seen a shuttle landing, they happen very quick, and the space shuttle doesn't have any lights on the outside."

And the astronauts will be back in Houston the following day.

"So right now, it's unlikely that she'll be there," he said.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head at close range in a Jan. 8 assassination attempt that killed six and left more than a dozen injured. By all accounts, her recovery since then has been remarkable. She attended the shuttle's May 16 launch at Kennedy Space Center.

Giffords, who is rehabilitating in Houston, had cranioplasty on May 18 -- the same day Kelly pulled off a smooth Endeavour docking at the International Space Station.

The low-risk procedure involved replacing parts of her skull removed to relieve pressure on her brain after the shooting. A specially fitted, plastic cranial implant was attached with titanium plates and screws.

The procedure had been planned prior to the shuttle's launch. Kelly discussed the timing with Gifford's surgeon and a decision was made to press ahead.

"She was ready, and I didn't want to delay it just because I was going to be away," Kelly said. "Her parents are there, my parents, my kids. She's got her staff. So she's got a good support system, and I didn't want to delay it because of what I had going on."

The surgery went well, and ever since the shuttle docked at the station, Kelly has been able to talk with his wife on an Internet Protocol telephone.

"She's doing really, really well. Like always, she's got a really positive attitude, and her recovery is progressing," Kelly said.

The astronaut and the congresswoman both are looking forward to an upcoming private videoconference.

"I'll have about 30 minutes. where I can talk to her and we can see each other. So she’s really looking forward to that, and so am I," Kelly said.

The veteran shuttle pilot and mission commander, who is making his fourth visit to the International Space Station, will stage the video conference inside an outpost observation deck. The European-built Cupola sports seven windows and affords panoramic views of the sprawling space complex as well as the blue planet below.

"It’s like a big bay window that looks down towards the Earth. So I can show her what we’re going over. I can show her video outside of where the space shuttle is docked. So I’m looking forward to giving her the opportunity to join me onboard. And I’m looking forward to seeing her. I haven’t seen her since the day before we launched."

ABOUT THE IMAGES: The top image is a NASA TV screen grab of shuttle skipper Mark Kelly fielding questions during a series of interviews with Tucson TV stations late Wednesday. The second image is a NASA TV screen grab of Endeavour as it made its final approach prior to docking May 18 at the International Space Station. The third is a NASA image that shows U.S. astronaut Tracy Caldwell gazing out of the European-built Cupola at the International Space Station during an expedition last year.

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