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Giffords leaves Houston, heading for Florida shuttle launch

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Giffords travels to attend shuttle launch
  • NEW: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' staff posts a picture taken from her plane
  • Giffords is scheduled to attend a space shuttle launch Friday
  • The shuttle will be commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly

Houston (CNN) -- A plane carrying U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords departed Houston on Wednesday headed for Florida, where she is scheduled to attend the Friday launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly.

Giffords has been recovering at a Houston rehabilitation hospital after she was shot in the head at a public event January 8 in Tucson, Arizona.

Her staffers put a picture taken from the plane on Twitter, saying she "is looking forward to some time away" from TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

Last week, her doctors gave her final clearance to attend the launch.

Giffords will not make a statement or meet with the media while she is at Kennedy Space Center, officials said.

Doctors and friends have spoken of Giffords' strong recovery. She speaks in short sentences, walks with a cart for therapy and has full use of her left side.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Florida, recently said her friend "continues to make remarkable progress, has a little bit more mobility now ... is a lot more responsive, interactive and initiating speech."

Earlier this month, CNN's Sanjay Gupta visited Giffords' medical team in Tucson, including Dr. Peter Rhee, the trauma chief at University Medical Center, where she was first treated.

Dr. Gupta on Giffords' skull surgery

"I'll tell you she's not going to be 100%, I know that for a fact," Rhee said of Giffords. "She has a scar on her head, she's going to have multiple scars on her ... there are a lot of things that are permanently damaged that won't ever come back. Is she going to be the same as she was before? I think she's going to have permanent changes in thoughts and memories and feelings and emotions, so we'll have to see how that pans out in the future. But I think she'll be doing very well."

Kelly will be commanding a crew of four other Americans and one astronaut from the European Space Agency. Liftoff is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. ET Friday.

According to a senior administration official, President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha will also watch the launch in person.;