Shooting could affect timing of shuttle mission

The ripples of the Arizona shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded has shaken the NASA community and could unsettle the agency's final space shuttle mission set to launch April 1.
Mark Kelly, the astronaut slated to command the final mission of shuttle Endeavour, is the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remained in critical condition Sunday after sustaining a gunshot wound to the head Saturday.

Kelly has been participating in a rigorous training schedule leading up to his role as commander of the shuttle mission. He is currently in Arizona with his family, and it was not clear if he would return to training.

Kelly's twin brother, Scott, is also an astronaut and is currently serving as commander of the International Space Station 220 miles above the Earth's surface. The head of NASA's astronaut office, Peggy Whitson, told Scott Kelly about the attack against his sister-in-law on Saturday.
It was the worst news to befall an astronaut in orbit since Christmas 2007, when a space station resident learned of his mother's death in a car-train collision. That astronaut, Daniel Tani, was working at Johnson Space Center, in touch with Scott and the five other members of the space station crew.
The brothers were set to be the first twins to meet in space, but the Endeavour mission was postponed to April, a month after Scott Kelly is slated to return to Earth.

In a Twitter message from space Sunday, Scott Kelly said, "I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers, words of condolences and encouragement for the victims and their families."
Mark Kelly's participation in the April mission has not yet come into question, and no alternate plans have so far been made, said NASA spokeswoman Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters.
There are typically no back-up crews assigned for shuttle missions, Cloutier-Lemasters said.
"It's just too early to speculate what might come with that," she said. "Everybody's just focused on taking care of them and supporting them."

Cautiously optimistic

Mark Kelly's longtime friend, Todd Fertitta of Landry's Restaurants in Galveston, said Sunday that Kelly was distraught after the shooting.
"Mark's a very, very strong person, but at times like this it's testing for anybody," Fertitta said. "I mean he's just very upset."
Doctors said that although a bullet passed through Giffords' brain from back to front, they were cautiously optimistic about her recovery after she was responsive to simple commands.
Fertitta said Kelly would use his charisma and personal strength to help support his family. Although it was unclear how much Giffords would recover, Fertitta said she would not want Kelly to jeopardize his place on Endeavour.

"Gabby would want him on that mission," Fertitta said. "She loved what he did, and she loved what he did for NASA."
Friends said the Giffords family had received an outpouring of support from NASA and the nation.
"Everybody's concerned," Fertitta said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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