Giffords Cleared to Attend Shuttle Launch, Doctors Say

HOUSTON -- Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords can fly to Florida on Friday to watch her astronaut husband rocket into space as commander of the space shuttle Endeavour, her doctors in Houston confirmed to The Associated Press Monday.

Giffords is "medically able" to attend but will return to Houston "shortly after the launch" at Cape Canaveral to continue rehabilitation, said Dr. Gerard Francisco, the lead physician of the brain injury rehabilitation team and chief medical officer, TIRR Memorial Hermann and chairman, department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School.

It will be the Endeavour's final flight and the next-to-last shuttle mission.

Giffords was shot in the head on Jan. 8 while at a meet-and-greet with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. This would be her first trip since she was flown from Arizona to the Houston rehabilitation hospital where she has been in therapy.

The launch is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Giffords' husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly is the commander of the mission.

"I've met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and ... they've given us permission to take her down to the launch," Kelly said in an interview with CBS' Katie Couric in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred.

CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday evening.

James Hartsfield, spokesman for NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, referred all questions about Giffords to her staff, which gave no immediate comment.

President Barack Obama and the first family also are scheduled to watch the launch, although it's unclear if they will watch it with Giffords.

Families view launches at Kennedy Space Center from a restricted area, and there are no plans for Giffords to make a public appearance.

Giffords went to Kelly's last launch in 2008, when he commanded the space shuttle Discovery. The two married in 2007.

The shooting happened as Giffords was holding a community outreach event in the parking lot of a Tucson shopping center. Besides the congresswoman, six people were killed and 13 were wounded.

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the attack and is in custody.

Giffords has not been seen publicly since the shooting and has spent the last three months relearning how to speak, walk and take care of herself. She has been singing -- as part of musical therapy -- asking for her favorite foods and visiting with family, friends, and her rabbi.

Kelly returned to training for the shuttle launch in February after taking time off to be at his wife's hospital bedside.