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Mark Kelly says yes to shuttle flight

Mark Kelly will command space shuttle Endeavour on its final mission in April, he told reporters Friday.

Kelly's flight was in question after his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot through the head in what authorities call an assassination attempt Jan. 8.

Kelly said he considered "what Gabrielle would want me to do."

"I've made the decision that I would like to return and command STS 134," the 46-year-old U.S. Navy captain said at a Friday news conference.

He "absolutely" intends for Giffords to be at the shuttle launch in April, he said.

"I have every intention that she will be there for the launch. There really shouldn’t be any reason why she can’t be at the launch," Kelly said.

"I know her very well, and (Giffords) would be very comfortable with the decision that I made," he said.

"She's doing very, very well," Kelly said.

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"We had a discussion, but it's not something I feel comfortable talking about," he said, declining to talk about Giffords' ability to speak.

"Space flight is a risky business, apparently so is being a member of Congress. we each take risks in our daily lives," he said.

"For me the risk on this mission is no different than the last flight," Kelly said. "Ultimately I decided the right thing to do would be to return and fly STS 134."

"Everybody felt that this was the right thing for me to do," he said, referring to family support for his commanding the space shuttle.

“When I told her mom in the ICU in Tucson that I would most likely not be flying she said ‘What are you kidding me? You have to do that.’”

"(Giffords) is a big supporter of my career, a big supporter of NASA," Kelly said.

While Kelly is in space, day-to-day decisions about Giffords' care will be made by her mother, Gloria, he said.

Giffords is at a rehabilitation facility in Houston, near Kelly's base at Johnson Space Center.

While on the space shuttle, he will be able to communicate via email and make phone calls if necessary, Kelly said. A video conference is scheduled for the end of the mission.

"The outpouring of support (for Giffords) is a big humbling," he said. "I know there are millions of people praying for her and I really think that does help."

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Kelly's decision is an opportunity to "optimize for success," NASA's chief astronaut, Peggy Whitson, told reporters.

"It's better to choose the fellow who's been training for a year and a half" instead of a backup, she said.

"We did some soul-searching," Whitson said. "This is the best thing for the mission."

"He is a veteran shuttle commander and knows well the demands of the job," Whitson said in a statement before the press briefing. "I know I speak for all of NASA in saying 'welcome back.'"

Kelly said that this might be his final chance to fly the shuttle didn't factor into his decision.

"I'm looking forward to rejoining my STS-134 crew members and finishing our training for the mission," Kelly said in the statement, using NASA's abbreviation for the Endeavour flight, which is set for launch on April 19.

"We have been preparing for more than 18 months," he said. "I appreciate the confidence that my NASA management has in me and the rest of my space shuttle crew

"Things fell into place and she improved very fast, so the decision became easier over time," Kelly said. "I know my wife very well and I know what she would want, so that makes the decision easier."

The mission is expected to be the last voyage for Endeavour, and the second to last flight for the space shuttle program.

The mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to last two weeks.

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