CAPE CANAVERAL - Space Shuttle Endeavour carried an extra payload of love and concern as wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords watched her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, and his crew lift off.
As in the past, she came to the Kennedy Space Center to wish her husband godspeed. But this time she was flown in from Houston, where she has been recuperating from a gunshot wound in the head.
On Sunday afternoon, Giffords and Kelly got some private time in an old beach house on the Kennedy Space Center property.
They exchanged wedding rings, as they do each time Kelly leaves on a mission. Giffords will wear his ring on a chain around her neck until he returns in 16 days.
First thing Monday, Giffords' staff started posting chipper updates on her Facebook page.
"Good morning! Who's ready for the best show on Earth?" the staff posted early Monday morning.
Then: "We're putting our Twitter away to watch Endeavour launch."
Giffords and other astronaut family members viewed the launch from the roof of the launch control center, probably the best seats on the planet. Also there were Giffords' mother, her husband's twin, Scott, also an astronaut, Mark Kelly's children, a nurse and the spouses of crew members.
Giffords stayed in a wheelchair so that her staff could move her more easily and to avoid any problems with her balance.
Then, as the Endeavour rode on a trail of flame into the clouds, her comment was: "Good stuff!"
Giffords' condition still improving
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' speaking voice is back to normal, an aide said Monday after the launch. She said the congresswoman had a full grasp of sarcasm, which she considered a sign of sophisticated brain function. Her next medical milestone will be a cranioplasty, the replacement of a piece of her skull that was removed after she was shot. The cranioplasty was credited with saving Giffords' life during the critical few hours after the shooting.