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Giffords plans trip to shuttle launch


U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is planning to attend the April 29 launch of the space shuttle, which will be commanded by her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly.

Giffords' office is making plans for her to attend the launch, said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin. Giffords doctors at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston will have the "final word" on whether the congresswoman will be able to make the trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, he said.

Giffords is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head suffered in what authorities charge was a assassination attempt at a Jan. 8 meet and greet with constituents. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the mass shooting, including Giffords.

Giffords will not meet with the media or issue a statement while she is in Florida, Karamargin said.

After the launch, Pia Carusone, Giffords’ chief of staff, and Karamargin plan to hold a press conference to discuss the event and Giffords' reaction to her husband’s latest mission, he said.

Details of the trip are still being worked out, he said.

The Endeavour launch was delayed from April 19 because Russia plans to send an unmanned cargo rocket to the International Space Station on April 27. NASA did not want the shuttle docked at the space station when the other ship arrived.

Giffords, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, attended Kelly’s most recent launch when he commanded the space shuttle Discovery in 2008.

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Kelly's upcoming mission is scheduled to be the last flight for Endeavour and the next-to-last space shuttle flight before the fleet is retired later this year. Shuttle Atlantis will blast off on the final shuttle mission in July.

Giffords has not been seen in public since the Jan. 8 shooting.

She was moved to a Houston rehab facility two weeks after being wounded. Doctors have said her recovery is "remarkable."

Giffords is "doing remarkably well" as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head, her husband said at a NASA press conference last month.

"She's improving every day," Kelly said. "She's starting to walk, talk more, more every day."

"She's starting to process some of the tragedy, that we all went through in January—she's going through that as we speak," he said.

"Despite that, she remains in a very good mood."

"As one of NASA's biggest supporters in Congress, she was really looking forward to having the opportunity to be (at the launch)," Kelly said.

"She wants to attend. She's been looking forward to this for a long time," he said.

In March, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, was charged with 49 federal counts in the attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.

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Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.

Loughner was moved last month from the Tucson prison where he has been held to a federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he is to undergo a compentency examination.

Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.

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courtesy Giffords' office

Giffords