Local astronaut weighs in on Kelly's shuttle decision

Local astronaut weighs in on Kelly's shuttle decision

January 19, 2011 1:35:46 AM PST
The husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, is sharing details about his wife's recovery. She was shot in the head 10 days ago in Tucson. He told ABC's Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview that he's convinced she recognizes him.

"Yesterday, in particular, she started playing with my wedding ring. So if I hold her hand, she'll play with my wedding ring and she'll move it up and down my finger. She'll take it off like this, she'll put it on her own finger, she'll move it to her thumb, and then she can put it back on my finger. And the reason why I know that that means she recognizes me is because she's done that before," said Kelly.

Kelly said one of the hardest things he will have to do is tell his wife about the people who died that day in Tucson. He says he's waiting for the appropriate time to tell her.

As of this moment, Kelly is scheduled to be the commander of the final shuttle mission. Whether he goes or stays, his NASA colleagues understand that his wife's recovery is his top priority right now. ABC7 spoke to a Bay Area astronaut about that decision.

"It's wonderful...there's nothing better than being a shuttle commander," says astronaut Col. Karol "Bo" Bobko.

Bobko has been on three missions to space, one as commander of the Shuttle Challenger in 1983. Under the tragic circumstances, he believes fellow astronaut Kelly's recommendation for a backup commander to train with the shuttle crew while he cares for his wife, is the right decision.

"He is still a commander, but they have a person that they're putting in a back up position, so I think that was exactly right. I don't know what's going to happen and I don't think you do either. Hopefully, they will be prepared for anything now," says Bobko.

While Bobko can't speak for Kelly's mental state now, he does say commanding a mission requires tremendous focus and hours of simulation training with your crew. With Kelly's mission expected to launch in April the training must start now.

"They have people that are called simulation supervisors that will think of the worst possible problems that they can throw at them and try and hone their skills so they are razor sharp. They will be doing those skills for launch, on orbit, for entry," says Bobko.

With Kelly's wife's recovery still day to day, passing on the mission is possible. He has two weeks to make that decision.

"Unfortunately he won't... he may not be able to get his fourth flight, but at least he's had three," says Bobko.

Kelly has already logged 38 days in space. His next mission is scheduled for launch on April 19.