Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Shuttle Skipper Anxious To See Wounded Wife

Endeavour mission commander Mark Kelly had been away from his critically wounded wife for 17 days.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat shot in the head during a Jan. 8 assassination attempt, had skull replacement surgery during her astronaut-husband's absence. And six hours after returning to Earth, Kelly still hadn't called his wife.

"Well I haven't spoken to her yet, because she's probably still sleeping," Kelly told reporters in an Endeavour crew news conference today. "It's 8:30 in the morning here. And you know, she's in the hospital, and I don't want to wake her up. So I just actually sent her mother an e-mail that said, the first thing I do when I leave this press conference, let me know if she's awake and I'm going to call her."

Kelly said he wasn't sure whether his wife got up and watched the landing, which took place at 2:35 a.m. EDT at Kennedy Space Center. Giffords is rehabilitating in a Houston hospital, where clocks are an hour behind eastern time.

"One of the reasons we didn't have her come down here is because it was really late in the night, and what she's going through now is a very physically challenging and difficult thing -- a very busy schedule. It certainly would be disruptive. We all have kids who are down here just crashed from having been up all night," he said.

Giffords has been making remarkable strides in her recovery from the shooting rampage, which killed six and wounded a dozen others. Two days after Endeavour's May 16 launch, which Giffords attended, she had surgery to replace part of her skull removed after the shooting with a synthetic implant. The two haven't seen each other in person since May 15.

"So, what am I going to say to her? You know, that I really miss her, and I can't wait to get back there tomorrow to see her," he said. "So we're all looking forward to spending time with our families."

The Endeavour astronauts are scheduled to fly from KSC to Ellington Field near Johnson Space Center on Thursday.

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