NASA names backup commander for Giffords's husband
NASA has named a backup commander for the Space Shuttle Endeavour's forthcoming mission to the International Space Station, a trip scheduled to be led by Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, (D-Ariz.) wounded in the Tucson shooting.
Giffords's doctors say she is making significant progress after being shot through the head on Saturday during an event with constituents.
Kelly, a Naval captain who lives in Houston and trains at NASA's Johnson Space Center there, quickly flew to Tucson Saturday to be with his wife.
Astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as Kelly's backup commander for the STS-134 mission so that the crew can continue training for its scheduled launch on April 19, NASA said Thursday.
Kelly remains commander of the mission, said Peggy Whitson, chief of NASA's Astronaut Office. "He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress," Whitson said in a statement. "Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's care."
Kelly recommended the assignment of a backup commander, he said in the same statement, adding, "I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to finish our training."
Sturckow will begin training with the STS-134 crew next week at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The crew also includes Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff.
The two-week mission is set to deliver a magnetic spectrometer and spare parts, including a high-pressure gas tank.
Kelly's twin brother, Scott, is currently aboard the International Space Station, but due to return to Earth before Mark is scheduled to arrive.
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