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article imageGabrielle Giffords cleared to attend space shuttle launch

By Kim I. Hartman     Apr 25, 2011 in Politics
Houston - Rep Gabrielle Giffords has been cleared by Houston doctors to attend husband Mark Kelly's space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Friday's launch will be the last one for Endeavour, and the next to the last for NASA's space shuttle program.
Doctor's say, Gabby Gifford is “medically able to attend but will return to Houston shortly after the launch to continue rehabilitation," said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the lead physician of the brain injury rehabilitation team and chief medical officer at Houston Medical School, reports the Associated Press.
Gabrielle Giffords has been undergoing intensive rehabilitation in Houston, after she was shot in the head during a murderous rampage, at a public event in Tucson, Arizona in January.
Shuttle Endeavour Commander Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, announced a month later, his intentions to return to shuttle training and command the Endeavour on its 134th and final mission into space.
"Kelly had taken a leave of absence from his job at Endeavour space shuttle to be with his wife, while recuperating at the hospital since the shooting incident, that killed six and injured 13 people," reported Digital Journal.
Kelly appeared this evening on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and said his wife will travel to Florida to watch the launch. Kelly said "He met with Giffords' doctors and neurosurgeon and was given permission to take her to Friday's launch."
Her response, said Kelly, "Awesome" and she pumped her fist in the air.
Kelly said, "She does a couple hours of speech therapy daily, plus physical therapy and occupational therapy and she is getting better each day." He said the day before they had played Scrabble as a team and won.
"She interacts with Kelly but it takes her more time," he said. "You have to give her time to compose her thoughts and put words and sentences together." He said "She is now walking with assistance and writing with her left hand, instead of her right, because she was shot in right side of the head," he was told.
"Giffords cognitive function and ability to relate to others, and her personality is 100 per there," said Kelly.
"She is still Gabby and this was the major reason he was able to make the decision to return to the shuttle program." He said he weighed the decision of putting himself at personal risk versus the reward to the nation and could see no other choice but to command the final Endeavour mission for NASA.
Kelly's twin brother Scott, who is also an astronaut, and was in space when the shooting occurred in Arizona said, "Watching his older brother deal with this situation with Gabby's recovery and manage being Commander of the space shuttle has been impressive to see."
Mark Kelly said, "When he gets back in a few weeks she will be different, so it will be exciting to see the improvement she has made." Giffords shows "progress day-to-day and week-to-week," he added.
"The Endeavour, named for the first ship commanded by James Cook, the 18th century British explorer, navigator and astronomer, is scheduled to spend 14 days in space," according to NASA's Mission Summary.
Upon returning from space the Endeavour will be shipped to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who recently announced "the facilities where the four shuttle orbiters will be permanently displayed at the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program."
"The Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter built, will move from the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. The Enterprise will be replaced by the shuttle Discovery, which retired after completing its 39th mission in March. The Shuttle Atlantis, which will fly the last planned shuttle mission in June, will be displayed at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex in Florida," according to the NASA press release.
"The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission is Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori."
The shuttle is scheduled to lift-off, on its final mission, Friday at 3:47 p.m.
More about Gabrielle Giffords, Space shuttle launch, Mark Kelly, Arizona shooting, NASA
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