Julie MarshMark Kelly is the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He's also a NASA astronaut and the commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavour's April mission, which will deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
NASA has not yet announced whether Kelly will command the shuttle on this trip, presumably because Kelly has not yet decided whether he is ready to do so while his wife is in physical rehab after surviving her nearly fatal gunshot wound.
In light of the recent anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that took Christa McAuliffe and other parents from their children, as well as Giffords' own terrible accident, I wouldn't blame Mark Kelly if he chose to hide under a blanket with his kids for the duration. But I'm pretty sure he'll go as planned, and what's more, I'm pretty sure that's what Giffords would want him to do.
We've heard a lot recently about Giffords' career, but as a space geek and military veteran myself, I'm thoroughly smitten with Kelly. He's a Navy captain and aviator, still active duty military but currently working for NASA. He has commanded three shuttle missions, and his twin brother Scott is also a NASA astronaut. Considering how little we hear about NASA and our work in space, I'd love for Kelly to command the Endeavour and bring some much needed publicity to that final frontier again.
Then again, I'm a wife and mother. I can understand if Kelly is reticent to leave his family, even if it has a negative impact on his career.
Bad things happen every day, and they happen to good people. I hate to imagine my own family enduring such pain, but it doesn't keep me from going about my usual business in fear of what might happen. I do have to admit, though, I might think twice about getting on a plane (let alone the Space Shuttle) if my husband had nearly died a few weeks ago and might or might not ever walk or talk again.
Mark Kelly, whatever you choose to do, I salute you.