HOUSTON — The astronaut husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Thursday there's a "pretty good chance" she will attend his space shuttle launch next month.

"We still don't know for sure. I'm just awaiting final approval from her doctors," shuttle commander Mark Kelly told reporters at a news conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Kelly said his wife, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, is doing "remarkably well."

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

Giffords is also beginning to cope with the shooting at a Tucson, Ariz., shopping center in January that killed six people and injured 12 others. Two weeks ago, Giffords' doctors said she doesn't remember the shooting, but had been told about it.

"Despite that, she remains in a very good mood," her husband said.

Kelly spoke at the traditional preflight news conference for shuttle crews. With all six crew members wearing turquoise "Gabby" wristbands, Kelly spoke first, reading from a statement before the crew took questions. He said he wanted reporters to focus on the shuttle mission, not his wife's recovery.

He left immediately afterward and declined to take part in the usual individual interviews. He said he anticipated a lot of questions about his wife, and had said what needed to be said in the statement.

On Tuesday, his astronaut twin brother, Scott Kelly, canceled a series of interviews after the first few interviewers asked him about his sister-in-law. Scott Kelly arrived in Houston last week after five months on the International Space Station, and visited with Giffords the next day.

"She was really happy to see my brother last week after he returned from space," Mark Kelly said.

Kelly, 47, is the commander of NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. Shuttle Endeavour is due to blast off for the final time April 19. The fleet is retiring after shuttle Atlantis makes one last trip to the space station this summer, ending the 30-year-old shuttle program.

Kelly quit training after his wife was shot while meeting with constituents. But a month later he decided to fly the two-week mission. At the time, he said he wanted his wife to attend the launch.

As one of NASA's biggest supporters in Congress, "she's been looking forward to this for a long time," he said Thursday. Giffords, 40, a Democrat, served on the House Science and Technology Committee, and took on NASA affairs while heading the space subcommittee.

Giffords hasn't been seen publicly since the shooting, and would likely view the launch from a restricted area reserved for the crew's families at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Within two weeks of the shooting, Giffords was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston. Kelly said he sees her every morning before work and at the end of the day.

Since the couple married in 2007, they've split their time between Arizona, Texas and Washington.

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Kelly said he's been able to focus on training for the shuttle mission as if the tragedy hadn't occurred. It would have been more challenging, he said, if it was his first shuttle flight, or even first as shuttle commander. He's flown three times on shuttles, once as commander in 2008.

"I've given this mission everything," he said.


NASA: http://www.nasa.gov

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