PHOENIX – Former astronaut Mark Kelly is planning his life post-NASA, keeping an open mind about running for political office while traveling the country for speaking engagements, he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Kelly said he will be paid to speak at various events beginning in the next couple of months but that his first engagement has not yet been scheduled.
Kelly will talk about his career in the Navy and at NASA and the challenges that he and wife U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, have had since she was shot in the head at a political event in a January mass shooting that killed six people and wounded 12 others.
Kelly said a career in politics is "not the plan right now" but added: "I've learned over a lot of years that you should never rule anything out."
Kelly has been mentioned as a potential candidate for office in Arizona, particularly for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl. Kelly has previously said that Giffords "is the politician in the family" and that he found speculation about his plans interesting, saying it must be a slow summer.
Kelly said he was attracted to speaking nationwide because it offers him flexibility.
"As soon as I landed the space shuttle on June 1 and got through that flight and that mission, I wanted to find something where I could have a lot of flexibility as Gabby gets through the next stage of her recovery, and this offers that," he said. "I think people will be interested in the lessons that I've learned over 25 years at the Navy, 15 years at NASA and what I've learned over the past six months."
He said the biggest lesson he's learned since January has been patience.
"Whether it's flying in the space shuttle or interacting with a large group of doctors and nurses, you know, things don't always happen exactly as you'd like them to, or as fast as you'd like," he said. "I've learned to be patient, and in time, things have a way of working itself out."
He said Giffords could travel with him on speaking engagements but that it likely wouldn't happen very often.
He said his wife was doing well, was in a great mood and was continuing to improve in her recovery. Giffords is undergoing outpatient therapy and is staying at Kelly's home in League City, Texas, a town 26 miles south of Houston.
"We continue to be very encouraged," he said. "Just like always she wants to get back to her home. My home is OK, but we talk about Tucson a lot."
Giffords and Kelly have visited Tucson once since the shooting and he said they are talking about a second visit.
He said Giffords is keeping up on the news in Congress and is "looking forward to getting back."
He said "only time will tell" when Giffords decides what office, if any, to run for in the next year.
Documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show that Giffords received more than $280,000 in campaign contributions between April 1 and June 30 as her staff continues to raise money to make sure Giffords has options.
The documents showed that Giffords had more than $787,000 in the bank at the end of June to fund a 2012 re-election campaign.
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