Video: Report: Giffords standing, walking some

  1. Transcript of: Report: Giffords standing, walking some

    JEFF ROSSEN, anchor: Finally this morning, good news for Congresswoman Gabby Giffords . The Arizona Republic is reporting she can walk a little and uses her left side. She has limited use of her right arm and leg. Giffords says she plans to walk a mountain when she leaves rehab. For now, though, it's unclear if she'll be able to attend Friday's launch of the space shuttle commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly . That's the news at 14 minutes past the hour. Now back to Jenna , Carl and Mike . Good to see she's doing a little better.

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updated 4/24/2011 7:29:46 PM ET 2011-04-24T23:29:46

Looking back on the horror of that Saturday in January, this seems miraculous today: that Mark Kelly would indeed command the next-to-last space shuttle flight and that his wounded wife, Gabrielle Giffords, would be here in Florida watching.

Yet that is what is expected to happen Friday.

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The Kelly-Giffords ordeal has been a national drama since Jan. 8, when the congresswoman was shot in the head at a meet-and-greet in her hometown of Tucson, Ariz.

The couple's love story — her struggle to survive a serious brain injury and her remarkable progress, and his devotion to both his wife and NASA — has overshadowed Endeavour's final voyage and the looming end of the shuttle program.

It's all about Mark and Gabby.

"They're America's sweethearts," said Susan Still Kilrain, a former space shuttle pilot.

A day for love stories
On a day fit for princes and princesses — Britain's Prince William will wed Kate Middleton that morning — Endeavour's scheduled 3:47 p.m. ET blastoff is the big draw for tourists and residents on Florida's Space Coast.

The Obama family will be here, as will a congressional contingent and an estimated 40,000 other NASA guests. Plus, hundreds of thousands are expected to jam surrounding beaches and roadways, all eager to catch one of the last two space shuttle launches.

No one, it seems, can resist the real-life drama surrounding the 47-year-old astronaut and the 40-year-old congresswoman, married just three years when a bullet changed everything. The shooting rampage outside a supermarket left six dead and 13 injured, including Giffords.

Kelly rushed by private jet from Houston to Tucson with his two teenage daughters and his mother, as soon as he learned of the assassination attempt.

Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Astronaut Mark Kelly holds the hand of his wife, injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as they watch President Obama's State of the Union speech from her hospital room in January.

His shuttle co-pilot, Gregory Johnson, was also moving at rocket speed. He opened his Houston home to the rest of the shuttle crew and their families that bleak Saturday night, as he struggled to come up with a game plan amid the shock waves.

"We wanted to deal with the emotions of all the kids. My daughter was completely beside herself," recalled Johnson.

Endeavour's six astronauts, all men, have 15 children among them, from 3 to 17 years old.

Italian astronaut Roberto Vittori's plane had just landed in Houston when he got the urgent one-word message. "Call." Just the day before, Italy's president had given him a flag to fly into space.

The news hit Vittori hard, just as it did everyone else on the crew and at NASA.

"Crews get close after 18 months," Johnson explained in an interview with The Associated Press, "and all my kids had met Gabby on numerous occasions and we had socialized together as a crew. So just getting past that emotional trauma was important. And then we were faced with OK, what do we do next? How are we going to move on?"

'I'm pretty sure I'm done'
Kelly figured he'd be at his wife's ICU bedside for "maybe two, four, six months." That's what her trauma surgeon and neurosurgeon warned him, in the hours after the shooting.

"I'm pretty sure I'm done," he told his boss, chief astronaut Peggy Whitson.

For several weeks, Johnson and his crewmates didn't know whether Kelly would fly the April mission or whether the flight might be delayed. A backup commander stepped in to keep up the training momentum.

But as the days went by, Giffords made steady progress. Her previous good health, great care "and maybe a little bit of luck" contributed to her swift improvement, Kelly said. "Or maybe people really thinking about her and praying for her." The astronaut's aunt is a Catholic nun. As it turns out, Pope Benedict XVI will make the first papal call to space during Endeavour's mission.

After a monthlong leave, Kelly returned to work in February at Johnson Space Center, bringing his wife with him to Houston for rehab. It's what she would have wanted, he assured journalists.

As he resumed training, his wife's full days of rehab were paying off. She began walking and talking more, completing short sentences. She also began to take stock of what had happened to her; Kelly told her she'd been shot.

Kelly settled into a routine: early mornings with Giffords, taking her a newspaper and a cup of her favorite nonfat latte with cinnamon on top, then straight to Johnson for a long day of training, then back to the rehab center to say goodnight to his wife.

Before the tragedy, the two split their time among Texas, Arizona and Washington, hooking up on as many weekends as possible. The shooting brought them together practically every day, until Friday. As is the custom one week before liftoff, Kelly and his crew went into quarantine.

In an excerpt from a CBS interview released Sunday, Kelly reported that Giffords' doctors have given her the go-ahead to attend the launch. Almost certainly, she will be kept out of public sight in Florida, as she has been ever since the shooting occurred. Her husband, meanwhile, will face the cameras when he arrives Tuesday with his crew at Kennedy Space Center, and again on launch day.

Setbacks spark public interest
Dr. Anna Fisher, a NASA manager for future spacecraft, said it's natural the world is focused more on the Kelly-Giffords saga than Endeavour's grand finale, though she thinks all the previous 133 shuttle flights should have gotten more attention.

"Whenever everything goes well, nobody pays attention," she added. "It's only when you have your Challengers, your Columbias or, like now, Mark's wife Gabby being shot," said Fisher, one of NASA's first female astronauts.

Indeed, journalists have descended in droves on NASA news conferences — those with or about Kelly — in a way not seen since shuttle flight resumed in 2005 following the Columbia disaster.

It will be the 25th and final flight of Endeavour, NASA's youngest shuttle that was built to replace the Challenger and first soared in 1992, six years after the launch accident.

And it will be the second-to-last shuttle mission, as NASA winds down the 30-year shuttle program with one last fling by Atlantis in early summer.

Even the Nobel laureate whose $2 billion science experiment will be delivered to the International Space Station by the Endeavour crew doesn't seem to mind that his project is being overlooked.

"I have great admiration for Commander Kelly," said physicist Samuel Ting. "It takes great courage for him to do this. Really, it takes total dedication to do this."

Tough for astronaut twins
Perhaps the only two people on the planet who bristle at all the attention are Kelly and his identical twin Scott, also an astronaut and a Navy captain. They repeatedly have tried — but failed — to steer attention back to their space missions.

Scott abruptly walked away from a series of interviews after he returned from the space station in mid-March; he kept being asked about his brother and sister-in-law. Two days later, Mark canceled all private interviews that already had been set up with reporters at Johnson. He took part in the traditional crew news conference and talked about his wife, but kept it short.

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Seldom does a single individual take over an entire space mission like this.

John Glenn was the exception when he returned to orbit in 1998 aboard Discovery at age 77. It's still called the John Glenn flight, even by NASA. Never mind there were six others on board and science experiments galore.

That's the only time a sitting president has ever attended a space shuttle launch — at least until Friday. President Bill Clinton was on hand to see the original Mercury astronaut, the retiring senator, soar. (Richard Nixon was the only other sitting president to witness a launch in person, when Apollo 12 lifted off in 1969.)

Now it's Kelly's turn. The Mark Kelly flight.

The five men who will ride into space with Kelly have circled around him, like a band of brothers.

"We also went through it," said astronaut Gregory Chamitoff. "We know Gabby and Mark really well. It's hard for us to see them go through this."

More about Giffords' condition and Endeavour's flight:

NASA has set up a special Web page for sending messages to Giffords' NASA family, including Mark and Scott Kelly: http://tinyurl.com/NASAmessages.

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

Photos: The life of space shuttle Endeavour

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  1. Special delivery

    Endeavour was the last space shuttle to join NASA's fleet: It was built to replace the shuttle Challenger, which was lost in an explosion shortly after launch in 1986. This view shows Endeavour perched atop a modified Boeing 747 on May 2, 1991, beginning the ferry flight from Palmdale, Calif. - where the shuttle was built - to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. First liftoff

    Endeavour lifts off from Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 7, 1992, beginning its first mission. The STS-49 mission's primary task was the repair of the Intelsat VI telecommunications satellite. Endeavour was the only shuttle to make its maiden flight from Pad 39B. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Grab that satellite!

    Endeavour astronauts Richard Hieb, Thomas Akers and Pierre Thuot hold onto the 4.5-ton Intelsat VI satellite after making a six-handed "capture" on May 13, 1992. The satellite failed to rise above low Earth orbit when it was launched in 1990. During Endeavour's maiden mission, astronauts retrieved the satellite, attached it to a new upper-stage booster and relaunched it to its intended geosynchronous orbit. This mission marked the first time that three people from the same spacecraft walked in space at the same time. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Science in space

    Endeavour astronauts Jan Davis, left, and Mae Jemison prepare to deploy the lower body negative pressure apparatus on Sept. 15, 1992. Scientific research was the main focus of this Spacelab-J mission, also known as STS-47. The mission's crew included the first African-American woman to fly in space (Mae Jemison) and the only husband-and-wife team to go into space together (Jan Davis and Mark Lee). (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fixing Hubble

    Astronauts flew on Endeavour to take on the first Hubble servicing mission in December 1993. In this picture, spacewalkers Story Musgrave and Jeffrey Hoffman perform an orbital ballet. The coastline of western Australia is visible below. The complex and highly successful repair mission allowed Hubble, which was launched with a defective mirror, to see into the universe with unprecedented clarity. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Building the station

    Endeavour spacewalker Jim Newman holds onto the International Space Station's Unity connecting module as he removes covers and works on connecting cables on Dec. 7, 1998. The STS-88 flight marked the shuttle fleet's first space station assembly mission. (AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Erroneous endeavor

    The shuttle Endeavour sits on its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 11, 2007. "Endeavor" is spelled incorrectly on the banner. The shuttle was named after the HMS Endeavour, the British sailing ship that carried Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery from 1768 to 1771. That's why Endeavour reflects the British spelling of the word. (Eliot J. Schechter / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Spacewalkers at work

    During the first spacewalk of the STS-118 mission, on Aug. 11, 2007, astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Canada's Dave Williams (out of frame) attach a new segment of the International Space Station's truss and retract a collapsible radiator. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Class portrait

    The crew members of Endeavour's STS-118 crew pose for their official portrait on Aug. 8, 2007. From left are Rick Mastracchio, Barbara Morgan, pilot Charles Hobaugh, mission commander Scott Kelly, Tracy Caldwell, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams and Alvin Drew. During this flight, Morgan became the first educator astronaut to go into orbit. In 1986, she was the backup for Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire teacher who died in the Challenger explosion. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great view

    Endeavour spacewalker Rick Mastracchio relocates communications equipment on the International Space Station during an outing on Aug. 15, 2007. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A gouge in the tiles

    Tiles on the underside of the space shuttle Endeavour show evidence of damage in a photo taken on Aug. 12, 2007, using the shuttle's robotic arm and a camera-tipped extension boom. The close-up imagery helped mission managers determine that the gouge would pose no threat during Endeavour's atmospheric re-entry. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Eye of the hurricane

    Crew members aboard the shuttle Endeavour captured this picture of Hurricane Dean's eye in the Caribbean on Aug. 18, 2007. The STS-118 mission ended on Aug. 21, one day earlier than planned, to avoid potential complications due to the storm. Forecasters worried that Hurricane Dean could have swept over Houston around the time of landing - but in the end, the storm took a different course. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. In control

    NASA Administrator Michael Griffin watches the liftoff of the space shuttle Endeavour from the Launch Control Center at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 14, 2008. The STS-126 mission delivered two spare bedrooms as well as a second kitchen and bathroom to the International Space Station. (Bill Ingalls / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Repairs at the pad

    Workers perform repairs on the shuttle Endeavour's external fuel tank at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad on June 14, 2009. The launch team detected a leak of hydrogen fuel from the tank, forcing a delay in Endeavour's STS-127 launch. The mission's main task was the delivery of the final segment of Japan's Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station. (Tim Jacobs / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Lightning strikes

    A giant bolt of lightning hits Endeavour's Florida launch pad on July 10, 2009. Technical problems and severe weather forced five delays in Endeavour's STS-127 launch. (Gene Blevins / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Liftoff at last!

    The space shuttle Endeavour rises from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on July 15, 2009, on the STS-127 mission's sixth launch attempt. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Parting glance

    The space shuttle Endeavour is photographed from the International Space Station soon after its departure on July 28, 2009. A Soyuz spacecraft docked at the station is visible in the foreground. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Twilight of the shuttle

    The shuttle Endeavour is silhouetted against different layers of the sunlit atmosphere during its approach to the International Space Station on Feb. 9, 2010. The primary payloads for Endeavour's STS-130 mission were the Tranquility module and the Cupola observation deck and control station. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Check out this view!

    Astronaut George Zamka, Endeavour's commander for the STS-130 mission, peeks out a window of the International Space Station's newly installed Cupola observation deck on Feb. 19, 2010. The Cupola provides an unparalleled view of Earth below. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Tanks for the memories

    The external fuel tank for Endeavour's final mission, STS-134, is transported to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2010. STS-134's main payload is the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an international physics experiment. (John Raoux / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The view from above

    The space shuttle Endeavour is lowered into place for attachment to its external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters in the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 1, 2011. (NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Greeting the day

    The sun rises as photographers gather on a hill to take pictures shortly after the shuttle Endeavour's arrival at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A on March 11, 2011. (Roberto Gonzalez / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Into the clouds

    Photographers track the space shuttle Endeavour's ascent as it pierces the clouds and disappears after launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 16. (Craig Rubadoux / Daytona Beach News-Journal via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Godspeed, Endeavour!

    Spectators react as the space shuttle Endeavour lifts off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 16. Hundreds of thousands of people watched the start of the next-to-last space shuttle flight. (Scott Audette / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Above the clouds

    Stefanie Gordon captured this remarkable picture of the space shuttle Endeavour rising above Florida's cloud cover on May 16 while she was on a commercial flight from New York to Palm Beach, Fla. (Stefanie Gordon / for msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. The last spacewalk

    NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff holds a handrail during the fourth and last spacewalk conducted by the shuttle Endeavour's crew at the International Space Station on May 27. Chamitoff and astronaut Michael Fincke (visible in the reflections from Chamitoff's helmet visor) transferred an inspection boom system, completing U.S. assembly of the station. The May 27 outing marked the last scheduled spacewalk to be conducted by a space shuttle crew. (Nasa T.V. via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Night passage

    Backdropped by a nighttime view of Earth and the starry sky, the space shuttle Endeavour is seen docked to the International Space Station on May 28. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Landing in the dark

    The space shuttle Endeavour lands for the last time at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 1, 2011. The touchdown capped Endeavour's 16-day mission to deliver a $2 billion science experiment to the International Space Station on NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. (Joe Skipper / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Blastoff into history

    A NASA poster pays tribute to Endeavour and its space missions over the past two decades. The shuttle is shown rising to orbit, with patches for each of its missions laid out in a spiral. The HMS Endeavour, which inspired the spaceship's name, is shown at lower right. At upper left, pictures of Endeavour are framed in the windows of the Cupola. The background image depicts the nebula NGC 602 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, which was first serviced by Endeavour in 1993. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
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