Mark Kelly, who has become a familiar face to Tucsonans in the weeks since his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the Jan. 8 attack, has announced that yes, he will command the upcoming Endeavour space shuttle mission scheduled for April.
His decision has taken on larger-than-normal proportions, we believe, as people seek reassurance that some degree of normalcy is settling back in after the shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13.
Interest in and attention to Kelly's decision does not, as some have asserted, indicate a disregard for the people who were murdered or those injured by bullets. It's a basic human instinct to root for those who've been hurt and seek out encouraging news, and Kelly's decision to go ahead with his NASA shuttle mission to the International Space Station can be read as an indication that Giffords is doing well enough for him to leave for a short time.
(Granted, it wouldn't attract as much attention if he had a different job and were going to, say, Lincoln, Neb., for a business trip - but Kelly is an astronaut, so his business trip involves leaving the planet.)
Kelly said Giffords' mother encouraged him to continue his training and to go ahead with the mission. We've spoken with the congresswoman about her husband's work over the years, and she would get a specific expression on her face - more loving wife than down-to-business politician - and beam with pride. She has always supported him wholeheartedly, from all accounts, and we believe Tucson is behind him, too - whether he had decided to fly or not.
During a press conference on Friday, Kelly said he expects Giffords to be at the launch in mid-April at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Many are taking that as encouraging news about her condition as she undergoes intense rehabilitation therapy in Houston. We hope that's the case.
So while attention turns to Kelly's space mission and the decisions he has made, and will make, we hope no one mistakes many Tucsonans' looking forward for forgetting the Jan. 8 tragedy or overlooking those our community has lost and the difficulty that continues for so many.
Tucson will never forget Phyllis Schneck, Dorothy Morris, Dorwan Stoddard, John M. Roll, Christina-Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman.
The Tucsonans who were injured remain in our community's thoughts and hearts. But our shared sorrow must not keep us from looking forward.
Arizona Daily Star