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Giffords doing 'remarkably well,' astronaut husband says

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Gabby Giffords 'doing remarkably well'
  • Mark Kelly is set to command next month's space shuttle mission
  • He said he hopes his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, can attend the launch
  • Giffords is "improving every day," Kelly says
  • She was shot in the head in January

(CNN) -- The commander of the upcoming space shuttle mission began a prelaunch news conference Thursday by addressing the condition of his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Astronaut Mark Kelly said Giffords, who was shot in the head January 8, is doing "remarkably well."

"She's improving every day, and in the realm of brain injuries," he said, "that is very significant and pretty rare."

Kelly, who will command the Shuttle Endeavour on an April mission to the international space station, said he hopes Giffords will be able to attend Endeavour's liftoff and he thinks there is a "pretty good chance" that will happen.

Kelly said he sees Giffords every morning and evening and that she receives occasional briefings from her staff. Most of her time is spent in therapy.

"She's starting to walk, talk more -- more every day -- and she's starting to process some of the tragedy that we all went through in January," Kelly said. "She's going through that as we speak."

At the end of the news conference, Kelly was asked whether training for this mission was more challenging given the obvious distractions of his wife's recovery.

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"I think it would have been really challenging if this was my first shuttle flight or if it was even my first flight as a commander of the space shuttle," said Kelly, who has flown three times before -- twice as pilot and once as a commander.

Kelly said it's been very manageable handling what's going on in his personal life while focusing on the mission.

"I've given this mission everything I would have if the events of January 8th did not happen," he said. "So I'm very focused (and) we're very prepared as a crew."

The 14-day mission, set to take off April 19 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will be the 36th shuttle mission to the international space station.

Kelly will be commanding a crew of four other Americans and one astronaut from the European Space Agency.

NASA has said the shuttle will be delivering equipment and spare parts for the station including two communications antennas; a high-pressure gas tank; parts for Dextre, a robot attached to the outside of the space station; and micrometeoroid debris shields.

CNN's John Zarrella contributed to this report.