Giffords' Husband Must Decide Soon on Shuttle Mission

Mark Kelly is scheduled to pilot Endeavour in April
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2011 1:41 PM CST
In this Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011 photo provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, holds the congresswoman's hand.   (AP Photo/Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords)
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(Newser) – The husband of Gabrielle Giffords has another concern that's likely weighing on his mind: whether he should return to space as scheduled in April. Astronaut Mark Kelly is on temporary leave from NASA, but he'll need to decide in fairly short order whether to pilot the shuttle Endeavour on its final mission, reports the New York Times. If he opts out, he's probably giving up his last chance to command a shuttle and possibly his last chance of going back into space, period.

“I think Gabrielle would want him to fly,” says the former director of the Johnson Space Center. “She would say fly, but I think a lot of it is really going to be up to Mark.” NASA doesn't have strict rules on pulling crew members ahead of missions, notes the Times, and it often comes down to a personal decision by the astronaut. No shuttle commander has been pulled off a crew or opted out this close to liftoff. Says a NASA spokesman on the decision: "We're not there yet."

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