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WASHINGTON — Astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and commander of the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavour, said Tuesday he will retire from the U.S. Navy and NASA effective Oct. 1.
Kelly said in a statement posted to his Facebook page that he wanted help Giffords recover from the close-range gun shot to the head she suffered on Jan. 8 at a political event in Arizona.
Kelly and Giffords, who married in 2007, also will write a memoir together, a spokesman for Giffords said, confirming a report in the Arizona Republic.
“I want to be by her side,” Kelly said. “Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters.”
The recent Endeavour flight was Kelly’s fourth shuttle trip to the International Space Station in his 15-year NASA career.
“From the day I entered the United States Merchant Marine Academy in the summer of 1982 to the moment I landed the Space Shuttle Endeavour three weeks ago, it has been my privilege to advance the ideals that define the United States of America,” he said.
Kelly, 47, who flew combat missions in the Gulf War, said he hoped to serve the country again in the future.
Giffords was shot in the head at close range by a gunman who opened fire on her and a crowd of bystanders at a political event on Jan. 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson. Twelve other people were wounded, and six were killed, including a federal judge, a girl and a Giffords aide.
In April, Giffords flew to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the planned launch of the space shuttle Endeavour commanded by Kelly, who is a NASA astronaut.
When the launch was delayed, she flew back to Houston and then returned to Florida for the successful May 16 take-off of Endeavour. The space shuttle returned to Florida on June 1.