Giffords' husband to command shuttle flight

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The Independent US

The Astronaut husband of the congresswoman shot and badly injured in a mass shooting in Tucson last month has decided to remain as mission commander for the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour in April, Nasa confirmed yesterday.

Mark Kelly will resume training on Monday after taking time off after his wife, congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head as she met with constituents. Six people were killed and 13 injured in the rampage. A 22-year-old is in custody.

The congresswoman was in intensive care for two weeks before she was transferred to Houston, where she is undergoing rehabilitation.

Mr Kelly, 46, spent the past month debating whether to step down as commander of Endeavour's two-week mission. Nasa named a backup commander, Rick Sturckow, who joined the crew for training. The lift-off is targeted for 19 April.

Mr Kelly has flown three times aboard space shuttles; April's trip to the International Space Station will be his fourth. He will lead a veteran, all-male, American-Italian crew.

The mission was already set to be one of the highest profile shuttle flights ever. It will be Endeavour's last voyage and the next-to-last for the entire 30-year shuttle programme, and will feature the delivery of an elaborate physics experiment by a Nobel Prize winner.

Mr Kelly's mission was originally scheduled for July last year, but was delayed because the experiment wasn't ready.

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