(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will be on hand Friday for the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, watching from a restricted viewing area at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Barring a weather problem or technical difficulties, the penultimate flight of the shuttle program is scheduled for a 3:47 p.m. ET liftoff.
Ordinarily, it would be the final flight of Atlantis this June that would gather most of the media attention, but the human interest angle of this mission is particularly compelling because Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is Endeavour’s commander.
The Democratic congresswoman was gravely wounded on Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire at a meet-and-greet event in Tucson, Arizona. Giffords nearly died from a bullet wound to the brain, while six people were killed and a dozen others were injured.
Initially, doctors called Giffords’ recovery miraculous but since being transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Houston, the progress has been more measured. The congresswoman’s personality is said to be fully evident and while she can speak in simple sentences and walk, doctors contend her road back to full health will be long and difficult.
Still, Kelly says his wife was anxious to attend the launch and her medical staff gave her the okay to travel. The couple have been married since November 2007.
During the 14-day mission to the International Space Station, Kelly and his crew will install a variety of equipment on the International Space Station, including a particle physics detector that searches for unusual subatomic matter.
They’ll also be taking space walks, conducting experiments and doing maintenance.
Besides Giffords, President Obama, the first lady and their two children will be on hand at Kennedy Space Center to watch Endeavour blast off.
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