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Giffords OK to travel, docs confirm
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Giffords OK to travel, docs confirm

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    courtesy Giffords' officeGiffords

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is "medically able" to travel to watch her husband blast off in the space shuttle this week, her doctors confirmed Monday morning.

"Attending the launch is an opportune time for her to continue her therapy progression," said Dr. Gerard Francisco of TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston.

"We routinely allow patients outside visits as part of their rehabilitation. Her attending the launch is a goal that we were working toward, and we have achieved that end. She has made remarkable progress in her rehabilitation, and we saw no reason why she could not travel safely to Florida," Francisco said in a press release.

Giffords' husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, will command the final mission of the space shuttle Endeavour, which is scheduled to launch Friday.

Giffords' office has been planning for her to attend the launch, her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, said three weeks ago.

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. The congresswoman's office may release a photograph.

Doctors would not release details of Giffords' travel plans, citing privacy concerns and the family's wishes. Arrangements for Giffords care while in Florida have been made with NASA, they said.

Giffords will return to Houston to continue her rehabilitation shortly after the launch, the release from TIRR Memorial Hermann said.

"Medically, there is no reason she could not travel safely to Florida to participate in this incredible event with her husband," said Dr. Dong Kim, a neurosurgeon on the team treating Giffords.

"This was not an ambulance transport. She is medically able and well enough to travel without additional risks," Kim 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.

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.

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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