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Video: Giffords boards plane bound for Florida, shuttle launch

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Video: Giffords boards plane bound for Florida, shuttle launch

  • Giffords boards an airplane in Houston.
    KHOU screengrabGiffords boards an airplane in Houston.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who hadn't been seen in public since the January 8 shootings, was captured on video by KHOU on Wednesday morning boarding an airplane to fly to Florida.

Giffords will watch her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, blast off in the space shuttle Endeavour as he commands the last mission of the space craft.

Giffords, guided by another person, walked up the stairs of the NASA plane around 9 a.m. Houston time, the TV station reported.

The video, taken from a distance, is grainy and has no sound from the departure.

Giffords' office, citing privacy concerns, has not released details about the timing of the congresswoman's trip.

Giffords' doctors confirmed Monday that she is "medically able" to make the trip.

President Barack Obama is expected to watch the shuttle launch with the families of the shuttle crew.

Giffords' transportation to Florida will be provided by NASA, which which provides transportation to and from all shuttle launches for all astronaut spouses,said her spokesman, C.J. Karamargin on Tuesday.

Giffords will return to Houston to continue her rehabilitation shortly after the launch, he said.

"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 Monday.

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

Karamargin and Giffords' chief of staff, Pia Carusone, are sticking to a game plan that emphasizes the congresswoman's privacy as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head.

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

"The congresswoman, like other spouses and family members, will watch the launch in private," Karamargin said. "There are no plans to release photos of the congresswoman watching the launch. It is possible that photos of the scene will be released, but that will not be known until the day of the launch

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

Giffords still in rehab after shooting

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

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," 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.

Arrangements for Giffords care while in Florida have been made with NASA, her doctors said Monday.

Accused faces 49 federal charges

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.

Launch delayed

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.

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