Giffords cleared to attend shuttle launchPosted: Updated:
HOUSTON -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend husband Mark Kelly’s space shuttle launch in Florida on Friday, Kelly said, allowing the Arizona congresswoman to travel for the first time since she was flown from Tucson to Houston more than three months ago to recover from a gunshot wound to the head.
In an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Kelly said Giffords’ doctors had given her permission to travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch of Endeavor, which is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Kelly is the commander of the shuttle mission.
CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday on "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric," according to a network statement.
"I’ve met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and ... they’ve given us permission to take her down to the launch," Kelly said in the interview in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred.
James Harsfield, spokesman for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, referred all questions about Giffords to the congresswoman’s office, where there was no immediate comment.
President Barack Obama and the first family also are scheduled to watch the launch, although it’s unclear if they will watch it with Giffords.
Families view launches at Kennedy Space Center from a restricted area, and there are no plans for Giffords to make a public appearance.
It will be the first time Giffords has traveled since she was flown from Tucson, Ariz., to Houston on Jan. 21 for rehab. The Democrat was shot in the head Jan. 8 in a shooting in Tucson that killed six people and injured 12 others.
Giffords’ spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, and her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, plan to hold a news conference after the launch to discuss the congresswoman’s reaction, but Giffords will not go to the news conference because it could be an emotional moment for her, Karamargin said.
Giffords went to Kelly’s last launch in 2008, when he commanded the space shuttle Discovery. The two married in 2007.
Obama last saw Giffords on Jan. 12, just four days after the shooting, when he visited her intensive care hospital room in Tucson and reported that she opened her eyes for the first time a few minutes after he left.
More recently, he wrote a tribute about the congresswoman in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world, saying that she wasn’t known before the shooting, but now "she’s got the prayers of a nation rooting for her."
He also wrote that Giffords is "a needed voice that cannot return soon enough."
The shooting happened as Giffords was holding a community outreach event in the parking lot of a Tucson shopping center. A gunman shot her in the head and worked his way down the line of her staff members and people waiting to talk with her. Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the attack and is in custody.
Giffords has not been seen publicly since the shooting and has spent the last three months relearning how to speak, walk and take care of herself. She has been singing—as part of musical therapy—asking for her favorite foods and visiting with family, friends, and her rabbi.
Kelly returned to training for the shuttle launch in February after taking time off to be at his wife’s hospital bedside.
Endeavor’s two-week trip will be the last for that shuttle and the next-to-last shuttle mission. Shuttle Atlantis will close out the 30-year shuttle program this summer. Kelly and five crewmates will deliver a $2 billion physics experiment to the International Space Station, as well as critical spare parts to keep the orbiting outpost running for another decade.