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Face time for Giffords, space hubby

Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

The shuttle Endeavour's commander, Mark Kelly, looks out from a video monitor in Houston during a space-to-ground teleconference with his wife, wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords got some precious face time today with her spacefaring husband, Endeavour commander Mark Kelly, during a space-to-ground videoconference from the International Space Station.

"Gabrielle & Mark connected over video chat today — complete w/ a zero-gravity tour of the International Space Station!" Giffords' staff reported on Facebook and Twitter.

Giffords' spokesman, C.J. Karamargin, told me that the Arizona congresswoman tuned into the teleconference from the TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Center in Houston, where she's undergoing treatment for the head wound she received in a January shooting attack in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 others, including Giffords, were injured. For a while it looked as if Kelly might have to pass up the shuttle Endeavour's last mission, but Giffords' recovery has been going so well that he decided to go ahead with the trip into space.

Now Kelly is more than halfway through Endeavour's 16-day mission to deliver a $2 billion particle detector and spruce up the space station. He's been in contact with Giffords every day via satellite phone, but today was the first time he's been able to see his wife face to face since the May 16 launch ... and since Giffords had an operation to reconstruct her skull.

A piece of bone was removed from Giffords' skull right after the shooting to relieve brain swelling. During last week's operation, the hole was closed up with a plastic implant. This week, Kelly told journalists that Giffords still had bandages around her head, so he didn't expect to see the results. But he was looking forward to the video contact nonetheless.

"It will be nice to do it via video, be able to see how she's doing and for her to join us on board the space station for a little bit," he said. He planned to give Giffords "a chance to look outside, look at the space shuttle docked to the space station" and see Earth in the far background. It sounds as if Kelly was able to follow through on his plan.

Endeavour and its six-man crew are due to unhook from the space station on Sunday and land back at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at around 2:32 a.m. next Wednesday. Giffords attended Endeavour's launch, but Kelly has said he didn't expect Giffords to return to Florida for the landing. So the next opportunity for face time may have to wait until Kelly returns to Houston.

More on Giffords, Kelly and Endeavour:


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