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Posted at 6:46 PM ET, 01/13/2011

NASA names backup commander for Mark Kelly's space shuttle mission

By The Reliable Source

Mark E. Kelly, 2001. (NASA via Getty Images)

Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will remain commander of April's space shuttle mission to the international space station, but astronaut Rick Sturckow has been named backup commander, NASA announced Thursday. Designating a backup allows the crew to continue training in Houston while Kelly focuses on his wife's care in Tucson, explained the head of NASA's Astronaut Office. It was Kelly's idea to pick the backup: "I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence, if necessary," he said in a statement, adding that he's "very hopeful" he can rejoin the crew for the two-week space trip. Kelly and Giffords began dating in 2004; they married in 2007. But it was serious enough by 2006 that she was allowed to pick one of the wake-up songs (U2's "Beautiful Day") when he was pilot on the Discovery space shuttle and she was running for her first term in Congress.

By The Reliable Source  | January 13, 2011; 6:46 PM ET
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