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Giffords' husband heads for space

The astronaut husband of shot US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will head to space in April, Nasa has announced.

Democrat Ms Giffords not only survived the shooting in Arizona almost a month ago, but by all accounts she is making good progress in rehabilitation in Houston, where husband Mark Kelly will resume training for shuttle Endeavour's final voyage.

Nasa confirmed that Mr Kelly will be aboard Endeavour as commander of the two-week mission.

Mr Kelly, who has been on leave since the shooting, said in a news release that he is looking forward to rejoining his crew and finishing training.

He said they have been preparing for the space station delivery mission for more than 18 months and will be ready to carry it out. "I appreciate the confidence that my Nasa management has in me and the rest of my space shuttle crew," Mr Kelly said.

Ms Giffords was shot outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, as she met constituents on January 8. Six people were killed and 13 were injured in the rampage; a 22-year-old suspect is in custody.

The 40-year-old congresswoman was in intensive care for two weeks, with Mr Kelly at her bedside, before she was transferred to Houston for what is expected to be a lengthy rehabilitation.

Mr Kelly wanted her as close to him as possible if he returned to work at Johnson Space Centre.

The 46-year-old spent the past month debating whether to step down as commander of Endeavour. As he agonised over the decision, Nasa named a backup commander, Rick Sturckow, who joined the crew for training. Mr Kelly said he wanted his wife's input in the matter, if at all possible.

Specific details of Ms Giffords' recovery have not been released, including whether she is able to speak. Last week, doctors said she would have a valve inserted into her breathing tube to help her talk.


From Belfast Telegraph