CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The astronaut husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) said Thursday that surgery on her skull went well and as planned.
Speaking from the International Space Station during a live interview organized by Google, YouTube and the PBS NewsHour, Commander Mark Kelly said, "She's doing really well, everything went as planned. The neurosurgeons are very happy, she's getting back to therapy today [Thursday] so it actually went really, really well."
During the interview, Kelly showed off his wife's wedding ring worn on a chain around his neck, as well a bracelet that he, and all his fellow crew members, wears bearing the words, "Peace. Love. Gabby." The couple swapped wedding rings before Monday's launch.
Asked if it had been difficult to blast off on board Endeavour with Giffords still in the hospital following the Jan. 8 gun attack in front of a Tucson grocery store, Kelly said he was able to speak to the lawmaker's mother and brother throughout the surgery, to keep up to date on her condition.
He said, "The surgery yesterday [Wednesday] was not planned all along, but she was ready and the doctors wanted to do it. It didn't make sense to do it when I got back. It was a pretty common [procedure], and it went well. She was excited to be at the launch and really enjoyed it a lot."
During the operation, carried out Wednesday at Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston, neurosurgeons were reported to have attached a newly fabricated piece of plastic skull to replace a segment that was removed soon after the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., to relieve pressure on Giffords' swollen brain.
The procedure at the Houston hospital was described as carrying minimal risks but is significant because it means swelling is no longer a danger and the patient is closer to being released.
Doctors were due to report on Giffords' progress at a news conference later Thursday.
Giffords was one of 19 people shot during the shooting rampage. Six people died in the attack.
Her recovery has been described as "miraculous," with doctors saying she is advancing by "leaps and bounds" from an injury that kills 95 percent of those who suffer it.
Thursday's question and answer session ended on a light note with the crew performing a requested group somersault. Kelly, who is commanding the mission, agreed, "That was not as graceful as it could have been but it's certainly fun for us to do."
The host, the PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien, responded, "You're not going to the Olympics with that! Keep the day jobs, guys—or the night jobs on this mission."