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First Photos of Wounded Rep. Giffords, Astronaut's Wife, Released

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The first photos of Gabrielle Giffords, wife of astronaut Mark Kelly, have been released since the Congresswoman was critically wounded in a January shooting in Arizona.

Giffords, D-Ariz., is seen smiling brightly in the photos that were released today (June 12). The pictures were taken on May 17 at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston by photographer P.K. Weis.

Giffords posed for the photos the day before she underwent cranioplasty surgery to have a piece of her skull replaced with a plastic implant. This was also the day after her husband, Mark Kelly, launched into space on the space shuttle Endeavour.

"Any photographer in the country would have loved the opportunity to take these pictures and I was delighted to be asked," Weis said in a statement. "I’ve known Gabby for more than a decade and her staff asked me to do it because she wanted someone who was not a stranger – someone she would be comfortable around."

Giffords travelled to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. to see Kelly and his five crewmates lift off on Endeavour on May 16. Endeavour's STS-134 flight returned to Earth on June 1 after a 16-day mission to the International Space Station. It was the second-to-last space shuttle mission for NASA, and the last flight of Endeavour, before the shuttle program is officially retired later this year. [ Photos of Shuttle Endeavour's Final Launch ]

Giffords suffered a bullet wound to the head in a failed assassination attempt at a community outreach event in Tucson, Ariz. on January 8.

"It was very inspiring to see how much she had recovered in 4 1/2 months," Weis said. "I was excited to see her and to see her smile. She was glad to see me, was in a good mood, smiling and laughing and seemed to enjoy the experience. I certainly did, too.”

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