This will be a simple post. I get regular email updates from CBS on space news by William Harwood. As many of you know by now, the Congresswoman is married to an astronaut, Mark Kelly. He was scheduled to command one of the last Shuttle flights, that of Endeavour in April. Here's an excerpt from the email:
Veteran shuttle commander Frederick Sturckow will replace Mark Kelly in
near-term training for a flight aboard the shuttle Endeavour in April, NASA
announced Thursday. With Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in critical
condition in Tucson with a gunshot wound to the head, the substitution will free
Kelly to remain at her bedside while ensuring his crewmates complete critical
NASA officials said Kelly, who endorsed the decision, remains the designated
commander of shuttle mission STS-134. Sturckow, a veteran of four previous
shuttle missions, will begin training with Endeavour's crew next week.
"I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete
the mission in my absence, if necessary," Kelly said in a NASA statement. "I am
very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to
finish our training."
Peggy Whitson, chief of the astronaut office at the Johnson Space Center in
Houston, said Kelly "is still the commander of STS-134."
"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. Designating a backup allows the crew
and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's
Astronauts literally train for years to prepare for a mission - if they are selected to fly at all. There's always more people ready to fly than missions to go around, and with the end of Shuttle program, it's uncertain if America will ever have as strong a presence in space again.
While we pray for the families of the fallen, and pray for the recovery of the injured, I'd like to add a prayer that Mark Kelly will be able to live his dream - and his wife will have recovered to the point where she can continue to share it with him.