NASA astronaut Mark Kelly is back on board space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission to the ISS, following a month's leave to be at the bedside of his wife Gabrielle Giffords.
Kelly's participation in the last scheduled shuttle flight had been in doubt following the shooting of congresswoman Giffords in Tuscon.
Kelly explained. "Things fell into place and she improved very fast, so the decision became easier over time. I know my wife very well and I know what she would want, so that makes the decision easier."
He added: "I am looking forward to rejoining my STS-134 crew members and finishing our training for the mission. We have been preparing for more than 18 months, and we will be ready to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the International Space Station and complete the other objectives of the flight. I appreciate the confidence that my NASA management has in me and the rest of my space shuttle crew."
Peggy Whitson, Astronaut Office chief at NASA's Johnson Space Center, said: "We are glad to have Mark back. He is a veteran shuttle commander and knows well the demands of the job. We are confident in his ability to successfully lead this mission, and I know I speak for all of NASA in saying 'welcome back'."
Kelly, pictured above at bottom centre, will be joined for the 19 April launch by (back row, left to right) pilot Gregory H Johnson, and mission specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and the European Space Agency’s Roberto Vittori.
As well as carrying the AMS, Endeavour will deliver "spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for Dextre and micrometeoroid debris shields". ®