Video: Rep. Giffords to attend shuttle launch

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    >>> there's word this evening from the associated press and others that congresswoman gabby giffords who's recovering from that gunshot wound to the head will indeed attend the launch of the space shuttle "endeavour" piloted by her husband, mark kelly . that will confirm what kelly himself told us in an interview here last month. the launch is set for april 19 at the kennedy space center . doctors treating the congresswoman at a rehab facility in houston will give us an update on her condition tomorrow.

updated 3/10/2011 9:09:49 PM ET 2011-03-11T02:09:49

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has shown so much progress in her recovery from a bullet wound to the head that friends and family are making plans for her to attend the launch of her husband's space shuttle mission next month in Florida, a person close to the family told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the family and doctors have not yet publicized the decision. A news conference was scheduled for Friday morning at the Houston hospital where Giffords is undergoing rehabilitation.

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Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 at a political event outside a grocery store in an attack that killed six people and wounded 12 others.

Family and friends of Giffords have been expressed optimism in recent weeks that she will be able to attend the launch of her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly. The topic has also generated speculation in the media and the general public, amid hope that she would be able to beat the odds from her horrific injury and see her husband rocket into space.

While doctors have said attending the launch is the goal, they have tempered the optimism with important medical considerations about the congresswoman's health.

Dr. Gerard Francisco, the head of the team of doctors overseeing Giffords' rehabilitation, said last month that a decision would be based on the progress of her recovery, how independent her movement is, and whether she could handle the commotion of traveling.

Representatives of TIRR Memorial Hermann, the rehabilitation center where she is being treated, and her doctors declined to confirm Thursday whether she would attend the launch. C.J. Karamargin, a spokesman for Giffords in Arizona, said getting her to Kennedy Space Center was still the goal as she continues to recover in the time from now until the launch next month.

"The plan has always been for the congresswoman to attend. If that is possible, it will happen," he said.

Suspense over launch
Kelly will be the commander of Endeavour when it launches in April, and his identical twin brother Scott is the current leader of the International Space Station crew. Mark Kelly has been training for the mission and said earlier that he hoped his wife would be able to see him off.

Endeavour is to deliver a $1.5 billion physics experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. Mark Kelly's flight will be the second-to-last scheduled mission of the 30-year space shuttle program. The final flight, involving the shuttle Atlantis, has been set for late June.

Details of Giffords' progress have been leaked to the media through friends and family, but the hospital has been tight-lipped about her condition. The news conference on Friday will be the first official update from the hospital since Jan. 26, when Giffords was moved from a Houston intensive care unit to the nearby rehabilitation center.

Making steady progress
Friends and family have described Giffords as making steady progress, showing emotion on various occasions, singing "American Pie" with her stepdaughters as part of music therapy and pushing a shopping cart down the hospital corridors as she regains her walking abilities.

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Rabbi David Lyon, senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, visits Giffords three times a week and says her speech has improved. "There are words that are becoming clearer and opportunities to communicate are increasing," Lyon told The Associated Press.

Giffords was shot in the left hemisphere of her brain, which controls communication. There had been concerns that she could have problems with speech, and it remains unclear what, if any, impediments remain and what could be permanent.

Lyon declined to share information from the conversations he has had with Giffords, but confirmed that she is often surrounded by family and friends. He said her room is decorated with pictures that are important to her, including images of friends and scenes from home.

"She's a part of a life, and that's an important part of anyone's healing," Lyon said.

The suspect, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, has pleaded not guilty in federal court. Authorities described him as a mentally unstable college dropout who became obsessed with carrying out violence against Giffords. He appeared in court this week in Tucson at a hearing attended by at least three survivors of the attack.

This report was supplemented by msnbc.com.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Former Ariz. Representative Gabrielle Giffords

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  1. Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot and left handicapped after a gunman opened fire at an event in Tucson, Ariz., and her husband retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly prepare to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 2013. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, leave the Newtown Municipal Building in Newtown, Conn. on Jan. 4, 2013. Giffords met with Newtown officials on Friday afternoon before heading to visit with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Michelle Mcloughlin / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gabrielle Giffords waves to the Space Shuttle Endeavor with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly as it flies over Tucson, Ariz. on its way to Los Angeles, on Sept. 20, 2012. Kelly served as Endeavour's last space commander months after Giffords survived serious head injuries because of a 2011 shooting. (P.K. Weis / Southwest Photo Bank via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gabrielle Giffords blows a kiss after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. on Sept. 6, 2012. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gabrielle Giffords stands on top of a peak in the French Alps with her husband Mark Kelly, right,, and mountain guide Vincent Lameyre, July 23, 2012. On her first trip out of the country since her injury in 2011, she rode a two-stage cable car to a station for spectacular views of Mont Blanc. (Denis Balibouse / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ron Barber, right, celebrates his victory with Giffords, left, prior to speaking to supporters at a post election event, Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Tucson, Ariz. Barber, Giffords' former district director, won her seat in a special election after she resigned to focus on her recovery. (Ross D. Franklin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, read Rep. Gabriell Giffords resignation speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012. The day after President Obama's State of the Union speech, Giffords formally offered her resignation to Speaker John Boehner. Weeping, Shultz applauded the strength of her friend and colleague, "I'm so proud of my friend." (MSNBC) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. President Barack Obama hugs retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as the president arrives to deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. (Pool / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., left, and Pelosi, right, posing with Giffords husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly of the Navy, at his retirement ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011. (House Leader Nancy Pelosi's office / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House for the first time since she was shot, making a dramatic entrance on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, during a crucial debt vote. She drew loud applause and cheers from surprised colleagues. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords poses for a photo the day after the launch of NASA space shuttle Endeavour and the day before she had her cranioplasty surgery, outside TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital May 17, in Houston, Texas. Aides of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords posted two recent photos of the congresswoman to her public Facebook page, the first since the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded a dozen others. (P.K. Weis / Giffords Campaign / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers use a stretcher to move Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz., on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. (James Palka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In this Jan. 5, 2011 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner re-enacts the swearing in of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Susan Walsh / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Rep. Giffords, left, speaks during a candidates debate with Republican candidate Jesse Kelly at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 18, 2010. Kelly is an Iraq War veteran and was the Tea Party favorite for the 8th congressional district seat. (Joshua Lott / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords meets with constituents in Douglas, Ariz., in 2010. Giffords, 40, took office in January 2007, emphasizing issues such as immigration reform, embryonic stem-cell research, alternative energy sources and a higher minimum wage. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rep. Giffords speaks during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress called on the President to secure the border with the National Guard on April 28, 2010. (James Berglie / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. This picture provided by the office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Monday, March 22, 2010, shows damage to her office in Tucson, Ariz. The congressional office was vandalized a few hours after the House vote overhauling the nation's health care system. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., center, gives a tour of Statuary Hall in the Capitol to Shuttle Discovery STS-124 astronauts Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide, of Japan, and her husband, Commander Mark Kelly, on Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Bill Clark / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. From right. Rep. Ken Calvert, Rep. Dennis Moore, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and Rep. Heath Shuler, attend a House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security hearing on current and proposed employment eligibility verification systems on May 6, 2008. The hearing provided a forum for lawmakers on both sides of the immigration debate, focusing on a system to verify the legal status of workers and job applicants. (Scott J. Ferrell) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Gabrielle Giffords with U.S. Navy Cmdr. Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut, at their wedding in Amado, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2007. Kelly's twin brother, also an astronaut, is a commander on the International Space Station. "We have a unique vantage point here aboard the International Space Station. As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful. Unfortunately, it is not," said Scott Kelly of the tragedy that befell his sister-in-law. (Norma Jean Gargasz for The New York Times / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Representatives-elect including Dean Heller, top right, and Gabrielle Giffords, next to Heller, prepare for the freshman class picture for the 110th Congress on the House Steps on Nov. 14, 2006. (Tom Williams / Roll Call Photos) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords rides horseback in 2006. In an interview with NPR last year, she recalled working with horses during her adolescence in Tucson. "I loved cleaning out the stalls, and I did that in exchange for riding lessons. And I continue to ride most of my life. And I learned a lot from horses and the stable people ... I think it provided good training, all of that manure-shoveling, for my days in politics ahead." (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A page entitled, "Just do it!" in La Semeuse, the Scripps College yearbook in 1993. The photo at right shows Giffords in traditional Mennonite clothing. That same year, she won a Fulbright award to study Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups in Northern Mexico. Gifford's senior thesis was titled "Wish Books and Felt-Tipped Fantasies: The Sociology of Old Colony Mennonite Drawings." (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Gabrielle Giffords' senior portrait from the 1993 Scripps College yearbook. Giffords double-majored in Latin American studies and sociology. A Dean's List student, Gifford won several awards during her time at Scripps. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Gabrielle Giffords, right, laughs with her mom, Gloria Kay Fraser Giffords, in a photo published in the Scripps College yearbook. Gabrielle received a B.A. in Sociology and Latin American history from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. in 1993. (Scripps College) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. University High School portrait of Gabrielle Giffords, class of 1988. Dr. John Hosmer, taught history to the future lawmaker. He tells msnbc.com, "Gabrielle sat in the front row. She was inquisitive ... She was a very mature person from the moment she walked in the door." (University High School) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: US Senate holds hearing on Gun Control
    Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (26) Former Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
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