CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in Florida, as NASA officials target Monday afternoon for the launch of the space mission her husband is commanding.
The spacecraft Endeavour had been expected to lift off Friday afternoon. The mission, led by Capt. Mark Kelly, was scuttled slightly more than three hours before takeoff because of technical issues.
Giffords traveled to Florida last Wednesday on a first-ever break from her Houston rehabilitation hospital. She’s recovering from a serious brain injury suffered Jan. 8, when she was shot through the head in an assassination attempt that killed six people and injured 12 others.
About 30 of Giffords’ staff, friends and family came to watch the launch. Most of them are staying through the weekend, hopeful for a launch on Monday. Also making the cross-country trip were 15 to 20 members of the University Medical Center team who were working Jan. 8 when victims of the shooting, including Giffords, were rushed to the hospital. A majority of those doctors and nurses also chose to stay in Florida for the weekend in hopes they’ll see a Monday launch.
NASA managers have to make a decision by early this afternoon, if they want to be on track for liftoff on Monday.
There are two likely scenarios for NASA’s technical glitch. It could be just a thermostat. That’s what NASA is hoping for because that is something that can be quickly replaced and put Endeavour on track for a launch attempt at 11:34 a.m. Tucson time Monday.
Meteorologists give an 80 percent chance for acceptable weather Monday with slight worries about winds at the emergency landing site, low clouds and visibility, NASA spokesman Mike Curie said.
The other option includes a fault in another part of the electrical system that isn’t quite so quickly fixed. It could be a box of switches that would then require at least two days of testing. If that’s the case, launch is not likely before May 8.
NASA got some partial good news this afternoon when one fuse panel — which would have required a long time to fix and test — proved to be working normally. But other potential problems could still cause a delay of several days.
With a decision on the launch still pending, Giffords spokesman CJ Karamargin confirmed this evening that the Democratic congresswoman from Tucson is still in Florida, and says her travel plans have not yet been determined. The Endeavour astronauts were expected to be spending time with their families over the weekend, many of them at a limited-access beach house, NASA officials said.
Giffords has not appeared publicly since the Jan. 8 shooting, though a video taken Wednesday showed her slowly climbing the stairs of an airplane on her own. She was shot clear through the left side of her brain and doctors on Jan. 8 performed a decompressive craniectomy, removing part of her skull to give her swelling brain room to expand without being constricted by bone. That portion of her skull has not yet been replaced.
The left side of the brain typically controls right-sided strength, sensation and speech, including the ability to understand simple commands. Giffords has been in intensive rehabilitation therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston since being transferred there from Tucson in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 520-573-4134.