You have to be an incredibly strong human being to survive a gunshot wound to the head. To then make it to your husband's NASA shuttle launch just four months later to see him off as he flies into space for 16 days; that takes a strong woman.
The courageous wife is Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded Jan. 8 in a shooting that claimed the lives of six people in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords, currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Houston hospital, said goodbye on Sunday to husband Mark Kelly, who is commanding the Endeavour flight mission that launched today in Florida.
The two exchanged their wedding rings before saying goodbye, and Giffords watched the launch from a wheelchair with her mother and the other astronauts' wives and children atop the Launch Control Center. She wore his wedding ring on a silver chain, while Kelly carried hers with him on the shuttle.
“Good stuff, good stuff,” Giffords was quoted as saying by her chief of staff Pia Carusone as Endeavour took flight. Kelly had his identical brother Scott Kelly, who's also an astronaut, present red tulips to Giffords afterward, as well as a single red rose to each of Mark's two teenage daughters from a previous marriage.
Giffords also wrote her husband a private note "which they hid on the shuttle," Carusone said. While there was concern that Kelly wouldn't make the launch because of his wife's condition, the 47-year-old Navy captain decided to go ahead with the mission because of Gifford's continued improvement, and her support of his career.
"I think relief was her biggest feeling. She was very proud. She's always proud of Mark and what he does. It was an exciting moment," Carusone said.