A Question About Mark Kelly’s Decision To Return To Space

As I noted yesterday, Mark Kelly, the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, will command the final mission of the Shuttle Endeavour, currently scheduled for April but possibly being pushed back to June. Today, The New York Times has an article up discussing the supposed controversy that this decision has created in some circles:

That decision marked the latest breathtaking turn in a marriage between two accomplished people that through the intrusion of tragedy has become part of the public domain. They have become the nation’s couple, this wounded congresswoman and this duty-bound astronaut, in ways that transcend their shared commitment to public service — so much so that many turned to the Internet to suggest what was best for this husband and wife.

Should he stay by his wife’s side? Or should he lead the mission he had trained for well more than a year to lead? Is it bullheaded of him to go on such a risky business trip? Or is this what she wants him to do, expects him to do? And how does a two-week trip to space compare to a yearlong tour in Afghanistan by soldiers with complicated domestic situations of their own?

Though a few criticized Captain Kelly’s decision — saying his duty was to be at his wife’s side, not in space — the general consensus appeared to be that the astronaut had made the correct and courageous move.

“I imagine a woman of strength and character such as hers wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” wrote Joellelevand on Jezebel, a pop-culture blog geared to women. And on the NASAWatch blog, Jsonova99 wrote, “He’s a pro and I have no doubt he’ll bring his A game to the mission.”

Meanwhile, in the real and not virtual world, the congresswoman’s staff members were elated with the commander’s announcement. “We all were kind of hoping this would be the decision he would make,” said Pia Carusone, the chief of staff for Ms. Giffords. “There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that this is what Gabby would want.”

Still, some people questioned the choice. “The truly courageous and strong thing to do is to be an accessible partner to your disabled wife who is now relearning almost every function of her body and intellect,” one reader wrote to The New York Times Web site. “Just sayin’.”

When asked about his “just sayin’ ” critics, Captain Kelly said that many people do not know what the Giffords and Kelly families know about Ms. Giffords’s condition, her support system and her admiration for the space mission. “I think if they had more details about those things, you’d probably have less people being critical,” said the astronaut, who wore a blue wristband decorated with a peace sign, a heart sign and the name “Gabby.”

On some level, I think that anyone who would presume to judge Kelly for this decision is really being incredibly presumptuous. It’s unlikely that anyone knows Gabrielle Giffords as well as he does, and when he says that she’d want him to go, then it’s something that should be believed. Especially when it’s combined with the fact that the Congresswoman’s friends, staff, and family are all saying that they support the decision. Nonetheless. as with every high-profile event in this country, people feel the right, if not the need, to chime in with their own opinion.

So, I’ll throw this one out for comment. Are people making too much of this, and shouldn’t we just leave Giffords and Kelly alone at this point?

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tony says:

    Basically, it’s none of anybody’s business. I can see circumstances where such a move would seem to be staggeringly self-centred and selfish. I can also see circumstances where it would be mutually acceptable and entirely legitimate. Such evidence as there is points strongly toward the latter. Who are we to second guess what’s going on? People need to drink a nice frosty pint of STFU.

  2. PJ says:

    It’s their decision to make.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Someone else’s marriage: keep out.

  4. Janis Gore says:

    Good luck to ’em and high hopes for a smooth mission.

  5. If they had dependent children, I’d probably think differently, but as it is, I think this is the right choice. Lacking the necessary training, he’s not personally going to be able assist her recovery. It would seem odd to expect him to just sit around for months doing nothing just for symbolism.

    PS: I’ve lately been having a problem with this site, possibly due to your ads, where opening the page will cause my entire browser to freeze up for about 30 seconds. Could you look into it? Because it’s really annoying.

  6. anjin-san says:

    No one’s business but theirs. My only comment is that the are a hell of an impressive couple, and I will be keeping a good though for both of them.

  7. sam says:

    Hey, I have it on the best of authorities (“some guy on the web”) that Ginnie Thomas has zero influence on what Clarence Thomas thinks or does, and vice versa. So, I don’t think Gabby’s opinion as portrayed by her husband means diddly.

  8. sam says:

    “PS: I’ve lately been having a problem with this site, possibly due to your ads, where opening the page will cause my entire browser to freeze up for about 30 seconds. Could you look into it? Because it’s really annoying.”

    What’s your browser, SD?

  9. What’s your browser, SD?

    IE8, but my suspicion is that it’s related to the Flash ads, either the total number or that one of them is holding things up waiting for a response from a server that’s not very fast.

  10. Health Vibrant says:

    Well, don’t know the specifics of Gabby’s conditon -but given the fact she took a bullet to her head a month ago – she definitely is not a well woman – doing better than she was and doing better than some who had same injury and maybe making progress since shooting- but nevertheless her condition is still serious and can change at any time due to complications of injury and or treatment. She is still a ill woman with a very serious injury. The other issue her mental faculties are not intact or totally intact due to the injury. She is not able to advocate for herself or make life and death decisions thus someone needs to be readily available to act on her behalf. It appears her mother will take over when Mark leaves. There is no love like a mother’s love- totally unconditional (there are some “different kind of mothers”) but most are selfless when it comes to their children. Thank God Gabby still has her mother around.
    Mark is in a tough position- all eyes are on him and his new wife Gabby. I don’t know Mark so I’m speaking in general. Most people do not know what love really is – most mother s do- most marriages are based on romantic love – and when something happens they discover that the love goes out the back door. Gabby is in a bad condition – i don’t know what is going on but she probably is not looking very attractive – also she may never be back to her ole self – highly intelligent and holding a high position. she may be very dependent on others for the rest of her life. Now think about this if the attractiveness (looks are gone) – the personality is altered and the career is gone – these are probably some of the major reasons Mark was attracted to Gabby. (let’s be real here)- so if all of those are gone – what happens to the marriage – it dissolves. This is the reality – most don’t wanna address this – Mark may be a good person but he is also human and most men when they took their marriage vows did not think about having an unattractive – sick – totally dependent wife. Parents don’t look @ us that way they love us no matter what. There is a difference between a parents love and devotion and a spouse love and devotion. Mark also has needs – physical and emotion- what usually happens when men’s needs are not met by the spouse- they go to another resource.

    My sincere prayers for Gabby to make a full recovery and God will keep her mother by her side for a long time.

  11. Health Vibrant says:

    please note : when I say attractive – I mean physically attractive to the spouse. But in reality Gabby will always be a beautiful person. The only lasting beauty anyway is beauty of the heart (only wish the opposite sex would put more emphasis on inner beauty).

    When tragedy strikes we find out who really loves us. And if people leave that ok – that allows room for a better person to enter our life.

  12. PJ says:

    @Health Vibrant:
    “Gabby is in a bad condition – i don’t know what is going on but she probably is not looking very attractive – also she may never be back to her ole self – highly intelligent and holding a high position. she may be very dependent on others for the rest of her life. Now think about this if the attractiveness (looks are gone) – the personality is altered and the career is gone – these are probably some of the major reasons Mark was attracted to Gabby. (let’s be real here)- so if all of those are gone – what happens to the marriage – it dissolves. This is the reality – most don’t wanna address this – Mark may be a good person but he is also human and most men when they took their marriage vows did not think about having an unattractive – sick – totally dependent wife.”

    I find your thoughts sickening.

  13. Janis Gore says:

    The thoughts are sickening, and they’re all possible, but I interpret events as a man returning to work after he’s found his wife the best possible conditions for recovery in his absence.

    I’m an optimist that way.

  14. Peter says:

    The fact that people close to Giffords say “what Gabby would want” seems to indicate that her recovery is not going as smoothly as some media reports say, otherwise she would be able to communicate her thoughts on the matter rather than having people guess what she might think. If she’s still incapable of meaningful communication after a month, it might also mean that she might not make a full recovery.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Health Vibrant:

    Sorry you’re that way about relationships. You might not want to broadcast it. Yuck.

  16. Health Vibrant says:

    Folks, all i’m sayin is that most people don’t think about “in sickness and in health” when they are standing at the alter on their wedding day. In sickness and in health may mean more than the flu.
    Some marriages have stood the test of time through rough waters but most don’t. (for a variety of reasons). Gabby and Mark seem like nice people and I pray for both of them. I know the decision was a real difficult one for Mark – and when we make a decision there will always be opinions about it.
    My thoughts are based on my experience working with individuals facing life threatening illnesses and their spouses reaction to it. So I am only speaking about what I have seen thus far. If what I was expressed is sickening – i suppose reality is sickening. From my experience the wife is more likely to stick by her ill husband than a husband sticking with his ill wife.
    But that is not to say there are not wonderful husband that stay by their side of their ill wife.
    Life can be very painful at times- and is not a fairy tale.
    Again my comments were taken out of context –

  17. Health Vibrant says:

    Mike Reynolds:

    Just sayin’ I am not that way about relationships. I’m a very devoted type person.

  18. Health Vibrant says:

    PJ & Janis Gore:
    what is so sickening? I am praying for Gabrielle to make a full recovery and with God anything is possible. But when individuals don’t make a full recovery it can be very hard for family to accept (especially the spouse). Spouse expect their needs to be met and so many couples split because they are no longer attractive to their spouse – ex. wife gains 100 lbs during marriage, wife has breast cancer, – this happens – it should not because they are still the same person inside -BUT IT IS THE REALITY OF SOME MARRIAGES. I’m not sayin this is the case with Mark and Gabby because I don’t know them.- So I was speaking in general.
    I wish all marriages were happily ever after – in sickness and health – but in reality they are not.
    Most people don’t want to even entertain the thought that their spouse would leave them in time of need but unfortunately it happens.
    I’m done – sorry you misinterpreted my comments.

  19. Janis Gore says:

    No need to be defensive about me. I’m saying it’s not our job to analyze their relationship now. I’m clear that life is not a fairy tale.

    I’d also say that my husband, much as I love him, isn’t the best in a hospital or sickroom. After a month of him hovering about, I might wish him off the planet, too. Not that I wouldn’t want to see him again, mind.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    Health:

    Here’s the blog of Annie Gottlieb who stood by her husband for many years: http://amba12.wordpress.com/

    My friend and lawyer also stood by his wife through a long and painful death from cancer.

    And if it comes to it I’ll stand by my wife, and she by me.

    Maybe you’re just hanging around with the wrong people.

  21. Health Vibrant says:

    Janis:

    I am not being “defensive” – just clarifying. Anyone can analyze the situation but probably won’t be an accurate analysis because we don’t have all the facts. right.

  22. Health Vibrant says:

    Mike:

    Thanks for the info. I am aware there are marriages that are so inspirational because the love is still there in hard times. However, there are some that are not able to withstand hard times. Nice to hear you and your wife have a wonderful marriage bond and you are committed to her.

  23. Health Vibrant says:

    P.S. I was speaking based on my 15 +years experience working with ill patients.

  24. Health Vibrant says:

    Let’s use our time wisely – and pray for a full recovery for Gabrielle Giffords- and a safe journey into space for Mark Kelly.