Monday, February 7, 2011

Mark Kelly's spaceflight could boost Giffords

Mark Kelly's decision to command a space shuttle mission as planned could be a boost to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' recovery -- and help the nation cope with the Tucson shooting rampage that left her severely wounded.

Dr. Craig Fabrikant, a psychologist at Hacksensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, said Kelly's decision lets the public know that his wife, an Arizona Democrat, is "doing better than expected" as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head.

"The quicker people around her ... get back to their normal daily routines, the better she is going to feel," Fabrikant said. "She's not holding him down or holding him back."

NASA said Kelly will resume training on Monday so he can lead space shuttle Endeavour in April, his fourth shuttle mission.

Kelly has been on leave since Giffords was shot in the head on Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store. Six people died and 13 people were wounded. Jared Loughner has been charged with the attack.

On Thursday, Kelly shared a little about his wife's progress at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who was a payload specialist on a 1986 flight by space shuttle Columbia, told ABC News on Thursday that it was "reasonable to expect" Kelly to go on with the flight.

"While he's training, she is right there in Houston. He'll still be able to see her. Obviously he would not see her while he goes into quarantine or when he is actually on the mission," Nelson said on ABC's Top Line.

One rehabilitation specialist, who has no direct knowledge of Giffords' condition, said in these situations a patient's therapy can proceed when there are other family members and a support system in place.

"Her progress will continue unimpeded," said Dr. Joel Stein, a professor and chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.

As a member of Congress, Giffords was a strong supporter of NASA's Project Constellation, the effort to return to the moon that was canceled by President Obama last year.

NASA is trying to get commercial companies to develop transportation for U.S. astronauts. NASA is also working on a rocket that could launch a new spacecraft, dubbed the Orion, on missions beyond Earth's orbit.

By Catalina Camia, USA TODAY

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