Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday when an assailant opened fire outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents, killing at least five people and wounding several others. Giffords is the wife of NASA astronaut Mark Kelly who is scheduled to command one of the last space shuttle missions. Giffords is reportedly in stable condition. Those killed included a 9-year-old child and a federal judge.
Kelly is scheduled to command the shuttle Endeavour in April, but he immediately flew on a NASA jet to Tucson from Houston, officials said, and asked to be put on personal leave. His twin brother Scott is now on board the International Space Station as commander. NASA officials said Scott Kelly was informed of the shooting by flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center.
Reports say the gunman shot Giffords from about a foot away, and then opened fire on the rest of the crowd. The gunman was subdued by other members of the crowd and is now in custody.
The surgeon who attended Giffords said the bullet traveled all the way through her head, but he is optimistic about her recovery.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden issued a statement on the tragedy:
“We at NASA are deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless shooting of Representative Giffords and others at Saturday’s public event in Tucson. As a long-time supporter of NASA, Representative Giffords not only has made lasting contributions to our country, but is a strong advocate for the nation’s space program and a member of the NASA family. She also is a personal friend with whom I have had the great honor of working. We at NASA mourn this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to Congresswoman Giffords, her husband Mark Kelly, their family, and the families and friends of all who perished or were injured in this terrible tragedy.”
Sources: AP, Twitter
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.