The Associated Press is reporting from sources that the astronaut husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will leave his recovering wife for his space mission targeted to leave April 19. Mark Kelly is scheduled to have a press conference later today to officially announce his decision.
It will be the space shuttle Endeavour’s final flight. Kelly has flown three times aboard space shuttles; April’s trip to the International Space Station will be his fourth. He will lead a veteran, all-male, American-Italian crew. The mission is scheduled to last two weeks.
The mission is the next-to-last for the entire 30-year shuttle program. It will deliver an elaborate physics experiment by a Nobel prize winner.
“He took a leave from training after his wife was shot in the head outside a Tucson, Ariz., supermarket as she met with constituents on Jan. 8. Six people were killed and 13 were injured in the rampage; a 22-year-old suspect is in custody.”
“The Arizona congresswoman was in intensive care for two weeks before she was transferred to Houston, where she is undergoing rehab.”
“Kelly, 46, spent the past month debating whether to step down as commander of Endeavour’s two-week mission. As he agonized over the decision, NASA named a backup commander, Rick Sturckow, who joined the crew for training….”
“With Kelly back on board, the launch will “get the same kind of attention that the (1998) John Glenn mission” received, said Howard McCurdy, a public policy professor and space expert at American University in Washington, D.C.”
“McCurdy suggested the public will embrace Kelly’s decision, because it provides a sense of normalcy.”
” ‘We all want her to go back to Congress; we’d like them both to continue their careers and we’d like them to be whole and normal as if this thing had never happened,’ said McCurdy, author of the book ‘Space and the American Imagination.’ “
My problem in analyzing this decision is we don’t know much about how well Rep. Giffords is doing in her rehab. Is she talking? Is she eating? Is she walking? What other family members are around to help take care of her? Also we don’t know how much progress Giffords can make between now and the date he leaves.
“Mark Kelly said on Thursday that the health of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, “continues to improve” daily, and that doctors had told him her progress was “a great sign.”
“In remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Kelly said Giffords, who was shot in the head during a tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, last month, “gets a little bit better” every day.”
” ‘The neurosurgeons and neurologists tell me it’s a great sign,’ he said. ‘The slope of that curve is very important.’ “
Two summers ago when my brother has his heart transplant the family was with him around the clock. As he improved and was more stable we didn’t sleep on the couches like we did at first, but usually one of us was there during the day with him. He had a lot of rehab too, and it is very hard work to relearn how to move and walk. My brother also had a tracheotomy like Giffords had, and it’s a totally different thing to talk through it.
Another concern is can Mark Kelly train for his mission and concentrate on the mission while his wife is recovering? Also can he visit and help her while he trains?
Mark’s brother, Scott Kelly, an astronaut currently on the space station, said their Navy background as high-performance pilots enables them to put their personal lives aside, when necessary, and focus on the job at hand.
” ‘My brother certainly is very good at that’ he told The Associated Press. ‘If he does choose, and NASA management chooses, for him to fly this mission … I am absolutely 100 percent confident that he will have no problem fulfilling his responsibilities the same way as if this incident would have never occurred.’ ”
My husband Michael said that routinely when his dad was in the military men would be pulled from missions if there were issues at home. His dad would have been sent to the first Gulf War but Michael’s mother had died only a few months before, and he wasn’t sent.
What do you think: Should Kelly leave his wife for this important mission in space? Would you leave your spouse? What if the genders were reversed?