IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Space or spouse? Most back Kelly's decision

Robin Davidson doesn't know Rep. Gabrielle Giffords personally, but as a wife herself, she knows one thing in her heart: The congresswoman wouldn't want her astronaut husband's professional dreams to become yet another casualty of the horrific Tucson shooting that nearly killed her.
Astronaut Mark Kelly prepares to discuss his decision to command the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavor on Friday at a news conference at Johnson Space Center. Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, is recuperating from a gunshot wound to the head in a Houston hospital.Michael Stravato / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robin Davidson doesn't know Rep. Gabrielle Giffords personally, but as a wife herself, she knows one thing in her heart: The congresswoman wouldn't want her astronaut husband's professional dreams to become yet another casualty of the horrific Tucson shooting that nearly killed her.

And so, as Giffords recovers, Mark Kelly should head to outer space in peace come April, said Davidson. "He needs to make this historic and honorable mission as part of their healing process," she said.

As a couple's dilemma, it's almost unfathomable: If your spouse was recovering from a bullet wound to the brain, would you be able to leave the planet?

Of course, nobody outside the couple's inner circle knows to what extent the congresswoman herself has been able to contribute to Kelly's decision to fly. Kelly didn't answer that question directly in a news conference, saying only: "I know my wife very well and I know what she would want, so that makes the decision easier."

But many of those discussing the issue online, at work or at home Friday assumed Giffords had in some way been able to make her feelings clear. And even if she hadn't, many said, they didn't think she was the kind of spouse who would want her loved one to give up a chance at a dream he might never have again. This will be the final mission for the shuttle Endeavor, and Kelly's fourth space flight.

"I know the level of training it takes to be an astronaut," said Davidson, 40, who lives in Tomball, Texas, not far from Houston and NASA, and is often separated from her husband of four years, Kevin, when he travels for his work on TV and film sets.

"And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would not want him to miss this opportunity. I can't imagine it would help her recovery to have her husband have stayed home and missed his chance."

Tom Jozwiak, a policeman in Clermont, Fla., had not discussed the situation with his wife. However, he imagined she would support him, because, well, she's a cop's wife.

"She is always telling me to do what I need to do," said Jozwiak, 55. And he assumed Giffords was doing the same: "I imagine she's giving him the green light."

But he was still uncomfortable with the astronaut's decision — for "superstitious reasons," he said. "This shuttle mission has had delays," he said. "I think I'd sit this one out. You don't want to test fate."

But his seemed the rarer opinion, at least so far. Like many interviewed, Jim Williams, who lives just north of Dallas, said he assumed Giffords' wish, stated or unstated, was for her husband to fly.

"From everything we have heard about her, that seems to be the kind of person she is — caring about the people around her," said Williams, 50, a father of three who works in sales. "I imagine that if she had any way to indicate to him, 'Go on,' that she did."

Pondering what he'd do in a similar situation, Williams said the crucial issue would be the state of his spouse's recovery. "If it were in the first few days, you couldn't tear me away with a crowbar, and even then it wouldn't work," he said. But with Giffords, he noted, indications from doctors have been that she is recovering unusually well.

And Kelly, he supposed, would surely want his wife to do the same thing, were the tables reversed.

"Imagine she was a deciding voice in a crucial vote in Washington," he said. "If I were her husband, I'd hate to think I was holding her back from something so life-changing."

Some people referred back to situations they'd faced in their own lives. Danie Pitre, a student in New Brunswick, Canada, is not married. But she recalled a conversation she'd had with a former boyfriend, after his mother suffered an aneurysm and nearly died.

"She ended up having many months of rehab and she did suffer some brain damage and it was really hard on his family," said Pitre, 23. "We both came to an understanding that life had to go on ... because it wouldn't help her anymore if he was distraught sitting by her bedside."

As for Giffords, she said, "I think part of her recovery is to continue being the wife that loves him and supports him in the things he loves doing, and that they will be stronger for it." Some people, she added, "don't need a physical presence to know that their loved ones are thinking about them and love them."

Support also came from another Tucson shooting victim.

"I'm sure he knows her better than anyone on the planet, and that she knows him better than anyone on the planet," said Susan Hileman, who was holding 9-year-old Christina Green's hand when the carnage began, "and if he's comfortable leaving the planet for space, I'm sure he's considered what she would want him to do."

Christina died, and Hileman, who was shot three times herself, is recovering in her Tucson home. She met Kelly at University Medical Center when she was being treated there.

"He seemed like a man who thought before he acted," she said. "I'm sure this decision was carefully made and thoughtfully made, and right for him and for them."

Hileman called him "a rock."

"He's kind and thoughtful and he loves his wife as much as my husband loves me, which is a lot," she said. "And we're both lucky women to have such strong men in our lives."

Also weighing in was former astronaut Susan Kilrain, who gave up her career when she had the first of her four children.

"I respect his decision," said Kilrain. "I'm sure it's the decision that Gabby would have wanted him to make and I'm sure he has the support of his family and friends there."

She added: "I would have supported his decision whichever direction he went."

Amanda Lee Myers in Phoenix and Tom Ritchie in Washington contributed to this report.