Congresswoman & Wife of Commander of final shuttle mission, shot

As most of you already know, on January 8, 2011, in an act of unspeakable savagery, a lone gunman critically injured congresswoman [Gabrielle Giffords.] Her husband Mark Kelly was set to command the final space shuttle flight [STS-134,] slated for April 1, 2010. It is currently unclear if Kelly will still command the mission. Thankfully, "Gabby" as her friends call her, survived the attack, but she's still in critical condition in a Tucson, AZ hospital. She suffered a point-blank 9mm gunshot wound to her head. The bullet entered the rear of her skull, passed through the entire left hemisphere of her brain, and exited the forehead.

It's a tragic blow to the NASA family, which has been stripped of its only remaining space fleet by budgetary concerns and a move towards the commercialization of future space flight.

Gabby was widely regarded by her peers and constituents as one of, if not the finest persons ever to have represented her district. It is said that she would listen for hours to people, until they were finished speaking. This is almost unheard of in politics today. Only days before she was gunned down, she introduced legislation to cut the pay of the U.S. Congress by 5%. What more do we need to say about this lady?

As the sun sets over the Arizona desert tonight, we all pray for the speedy and successful recovery of this family of American heroes.

Arizona Congresswoman "Gabby" Giffords

Crew of STS-134, Commander Mark Kelly - front & center

In acknowledgment of the locale, Arizona has a history among young persons as a place where playing chicken with two cars in near head-on collision staging of combativeness was common on the long desert empty highways about 40-50 years ago. I used to know about the routine killings of poor people by local police in the major towns of Az. in those years as well. If a person was not wanted in town, the only safe option was to make a run for another state of the U.S.
That was and probably still is one of the zany danger states where some undercurrent of violent impulses were carried to bad effects. It had the charm of a 'western movie scene.
I kept a quiet listening post, and stayed away from damages and corruption. It worked for me then, but the prevalence of arms, and the mood and culture of combative posturing intent to even small matters of economics or national origin and other excuses for violence were the urban standard. Gun toting and collecting was a local near religion.
I used to love that desert, but life was harsh for the poor.
Why the attack happening will be studied by many for a time, but the severe damages most of us receive are often not well understood even with a diligent ear to the story as it is detailed over time.
I visited one Az. town many years past, flew in by plane, and was shot at by rifle fire repeatedly just a half mile from the main airport at the margin of a residential neighborhood as a pedestian walking. I wasn't in town more than an hour, and took the next flight out of town.
Despite being popular with many, it is a state with a past, and a tolerance of violent orientation.
It sounds like the current situation carries some of the aspects of my experiences in the basics, but my recollection doesn't give the needed relief or comforts to the families injured.

"No shuttle commander has ever been replaced this close to flight."

[Backup commander replaces Kelly in near-term training] - Jan. 13, 2011 - Spaceflightnow

Veteran shuttle commander Frederick Sturckow will replace Mark Kelly in near-term training for a flight aboard the shuttle Endeavour in April, NASA announced Thursday. With Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in critical condition in Tucson with a gunshot wound to the head, the substitution will free Kelly to remain at her bedside while ensuring his crewmates complete critical flight training.

NASA officials said Kelly, who endorsed the decision, remains the designated commander of shuttle mission STS-134. Sturckow, a veteran of four previous shuttle missions, will begin training with Endeavour's crew next week ... cont. at link above.

Back to work for Mark Kelley. His wife, despite her condition, may be at the Cape for his launch in April. I hope her recovery goes well enough, that she can.

[Kelly to resume training for April space shuttle flight] - Spaceflightnow - February 4, 2011

Just one month after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in Tucson, the Arizona Democrat's husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, announced Friday that he will resume training Monday to command the shuttle Endeavour during its final flight in April, saying his wife "would be very comfortable with the decision I made" ... cont. at link above.

[Giffords flies to Florida for Endeavour's launch] - Spaceflightnow - 4-27-11

The shuttle Endeavour's countdown is proceeding smoothly toward launch Friday with no technical problems of any significance and forecasters predicting an 80 percent chance of good weather. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the gravely wounded wife of shuttle commander Mark Kelly, flew to Florida from Houston Wednesday, her first major trip since an assassination attempt in January .... cont. at link above.