In this Oct. 8, 2010 file photo, U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, a crew member of the mission to the International Space Station, left, accompanied by his brother, Mark Kelly, also an astronaut and husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, right, walk to the rocket ahead of the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian-leased cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.AP
PHOENIX -- Astronaut Scott Kelly saw his sister-in-law, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on Friday in her Houston hospital for the first time since she was wounded 2 1/2 months ago in a mass shooting in Tucson, the congresswoman's spokesman said Monday.
Kelly was in the middle of a five-month space station mission for NASA when Giffords was shot in the head Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents. Six people were killed and 13 others were wounded, including Giffords, who is married to Kelly's identical twin, Mark Kelly.
After rushing back to Houston a day after landing in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian capsule last week, Scott Kelly was able to visit the congresswoman Friday evening, said Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin.
There were more smiles than tears at the "exciting reunion," he said.
"The congresswoman was beaming," Karamargin said. "There were a lot of smiles, a lot of broad smiles."
Scott Kelly told Giffords what his time in space was like, from living in a weightless environment to his bouncy landing back on Earth, Karamargin said.
The shooting, "without a doubt," was the low point of the 159-day mission. "Shocking, very sad, tragic," Scott Kelly said in a NASA interview conducted within hours of his touchdown.
"It certainly was difficult," he said about being stuck in space when the shooting occurred.
Karamargin himself hadn't seen Giffords since she was transferred from Tucson to her Houston hospital in January and said she's "really making amazing progress."
"Gabby is pushing herself," he said.
Jared Lee Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges, many of which carry the death penalty if prosecutors pursue it. State charges are on hold until the federal case is complete.
Since the shooting, Giffords has seemingly made progress every day. She now talks on a regular basis and sings some of her favorite songs as part of her musical therapy.
Mark Kelly is the commander of NASA's next shuttle flight on April 19. Giffords still plans to attend the launch in person, but that will depend on doctors' approval and working out the logistics, Karamargin said.
"When you see the improvements that are being made on a daily basis, then it's just more reason to hope that it will be able to happen," he said.