Saturday, January 08, 2011

Astronaut's wife shot, critical in mass shooting today

Giffords and astronaut Mark Kelly in 2006 prior to marriage.

The wife of the commander of April's space shuttle flight, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot and critically injured on Saturday during a meeting with supporters outside a grocery store near Tucson, Arizona.

Giffords, who oversees Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, was attending a “Congress on Your Corner” which began at 10 a.m. local time.

She is expected to survive a gunshot wound to the head according to the medical staff treating her and several others wounded.

Giffords met astronaut Mark Kelly in 2003 while in China. The couple were married four years later, her biography states.

According to a family friend, Kelly proposed to Giffords on the campus of his alma mater, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, in Kings Point, New York in October 2006.

Moments after the tragedy which left thirteen people injured and six dead including one of her aides, Kelly flew from his home near Houston to Tucson to be with his wife. The couple have no children together.

Dr. Peter Rhee of the the University of Arizona trauma center stated that Rep. Giffords' in critical condition, "The neurosurgeons have finished operating on her and... I'm very optimistic about (her) recovery."

He added that she was "following commands" following the single gun shot to the head. Dr. Rhee could not comment on where she was shot specifically.

NASA administrator Charlie Bolden issued a statement hours after the shooting, "We at NASA are deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting of Representative Giffords and others at Saturday’s public event in Tucson".

"As a long-time supporter of NASA, Representative Giffords not only has made lasting contributions to our country, but is a strong advocate for the nation’s space program and a member of the NASA family," Bolden added. "She also is a personal friend with whom I have had the great honor of working."

Georgia's Rep. Tom Price (R-GA6) of north Atlanta issued a brief statement on Saturday's shooting, "My thoughts and prayers are with Gabrielle Giffords, the Giffords family, and the families of all those affected by this tragedy".

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who flew on the space shuttle Columbia 25 years ago next week stated today, ""I am deeply saddened to learn of today's events in Tucson. My prayers go out to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all the victims, as well as to our NASA family, which includes her husband, who is training to be the next commander of the space shuttle mission slated for April, and her brother-in-law, who is currently serving aboard the International Space Station."

President Obama addressed the nation in saying, "I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers".

This journalist enjoyed a few drinks with Kelly and his brother, Scott Kelly -- the current commander of the International Space Station -- a few months ago.

The Kelly brothers are a military pair who are very passionate about aerospace and the space program as a whole, and so is Gabrielle Giffords.

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