“ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit”

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), who were married in 2007. (Credit: Giffords Flickr photostream)

It’s hard not to personalize tragedy. For the friends and family of those killed in Saturday’s shooting in Arizona, those losses are the focus. For many others, it was the shooting of a member of the U.S. House of Representatives that resonates. For me, even though the focus was on the same person, Saturday was the shooting of Mark Kelly’s wife.

Mark was one of the first astronauts I met when I came to work for NASA, and certainly one of the more immediately memorable. I don’t know whether the story of how he and his twin brother Scott would take turns growing and shaving off mustaches to confuse people is true, but it fits. Before the problems with the external tank delayed the next shuttle mission, the plan was that Mark would command a shuttle mission that would dock with the station while it was commanded by Scott. You don’t reach the point where you and your twin brother are both commanding literal spaceships at the same time without being incredibly competent, but the twins also have great senses of humor and affable personalities. I never met his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but I hurt for him and the Kelly family. Saturday was a tragedy for the NASA family, and its personal to us all.

I’m posting this, though, not to share my thoughts, but rather this link that Heather sent me, ISO My Husband, Somewhere in Orbit, from two and a half years ago, that puts a personal face on Saturday’s events:

After a busy weekend, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords flew into BWI yesterday, took the train to Union Station, then ran into a bar searching for a TV.

“I pleaded with the bartender, who had it tuned to some sports station, with a straight face: ‘My husband is the commander of space shuttle Discovery. They’re in the process of rendezvousing with the international pace station. May I please turn the channel?’ ” Giffords told us. “He looked a little confused and handed me the remote.”

The Arizona Democrat, who turns 38 on Sunday, became a NASA spouse when she married 44-year-old astronaut Mark Kelly in November. The two have maintained a long-distance marriage ever since: she in Tucson and D.C.; he in Houston — and for the next 11 days, 218 miles out in space. She’ll watch him on the news every day, and wear her Christmas gift: a meteorite he had made into a pendant for her.

This is Kelly’s third trip into space. He’s shepherding a $1 billion space lab, a pump to repair a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear doll and two items from his bride: a flag from the National Day of the Cowboy Organization (“I just thought we needed cowboy representation up there”) and her wedding band, inscribed: You’re the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been.“And he would know,” she said.

2 Responses

  1. This is beautiful! And I loved that she had a line similar to the line from “Iris” inscribed in her wedding band! I’m letting the guys know!

  2. An interesting perspective on this terrible tragedy and beautiful photo.

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