June 22, 2011

NASA’s Mark Kelly Will Retire To Be With Giffords

NASA Commander and Navy Captain Mark Kelly announced his retirement from the military and space travel on Tuesday, saying he will focus on his recovering wife, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and work with her on a memoir of their lives before and after a gunman shot Rep. Giffords in the head during a political event in Tucson in January.  

"I want to be by her side. Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters," wrote Kelly in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

"Gabrielle is working hard every day on her mission of recovery. I want to be by her side," he wrote.

Six people were killed in the tragedy, and 13 people, including Giffords, were wounded. 

Giffords was recently released from a Houston-area rehab center, and is staying at Kelly's home in Texas while undergoing outpatient therapy.

Kelly joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996, and is a veteran of four space shuttle missions, including last month's final Space Shuttle Endeavour flight, which he commanded.

"I will be forever grateful to the NASA managers who trusted me with this enormous responsibility during such a difficult period in my personal life and to those leaders in the United States Navy who prepared me to handle these challenging times," wrote Kelly.

"This was not an easy decision. Public service has been more than a job for me and for my family," he added.

The currently untitled memoir will be published by Scribner, and will be co-written by author and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow.

Zaslow helped write the memoir, entitled "ËœHighest Duty', for pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the Arizona Republic reported. 

Kelly and Giffords' book will be a "deeply personal account" of the couple's courtship, Giffords' political career and the shooting, Kelly said.

It also will detail the story of Giffords' recovery process, and trace Kelly's career from Desert Storm combat pilot to his mission as shuttle Endeavour commander, the statement read.

A portion of the net proceeds from the book will go to charities in Tucson and Arizona, Scribner said in a statement.

"Gabby and I are forever grateful for the heartfelt support we've received over these many months. We are looking forward to sharing our story," Kelly said in the Scribner statement.

A publication date for the book has not been set.

Kelly said he would retire on October 1, and that he hoped to serve the nation again in the future.

NASA's space shuttle program has one final mission to the International Space Station, with the shuttle Atlantis scheduled to depart on July 8.

After completion of the mission, the fleet will retire and space travel will be conducted via commercial efforts.

"I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them. There isn't a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA," Kelly wrote.

Kelly's full statement can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/notes/captain-mark-kelly/retirement-from-united-states-navy-and-nasa/182520748469858.

Kelly's complete biography can be viewed at http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/kellyme.html

To follow Kelly on Twitter and Facebook, visit http://www.twitter.com/ShuttleCDRKelly and http://www.facebook.com/Capt.MarkKelly.


Image Caption: Mark E. Kelly at the side of wife Gabrielle Giffords in the University Medical Center, recovering from injuries sustained during the 2011 Tucson shooting. Credit: U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords' office