Astronaut Mark Kelly Announces Retirement from NASA
“We salute Commander Mark Kelly and his contributions to NASA as an extremely accomplished member of the astronaut corps and the final commander of the space shuttle Endeavour,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
Kelly, also a U.S. Navy captain, is a veteran of four space shuttle missions. He announced his retirement in a post on his Facebook account and via his Twitter account as well.
“This was not an easy decision. Public service has been more than a job for me and for my family,” Kelly wrote. “There isn’t a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA.”
Kelly commanded the STS-134 flight in May and STS-124 in 2008. He served as the pilot on STS-121 in 2006 and STS-108 in 2001. He first joined NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1996.
“We know that Mark will continue to do great things for his country no matter what he chooses to do next. He has helped us build a space program poised to take advantage of the many opportunities in our bright future,” added Bolden.
Last May, Kelly was the commander of the final mission to the International Space Station (ISS) of the space shuttle Endeavour. The mission returned to Earth after 16 days. Rep. Giffords attended the launching despite that she is still recovering from being shot in the head in Arizona.
On January 8, suspected 22-year-old gunman Jared Loughner opened fire outside a supermarket in northwest Tucson, where Giffords was holding a rally. The shooting attack killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl, and injured 14 others.
Loughner was arrested and charged in a 49-count indictment for the offenses against all civilians in attendance at the event. However, on May 25, the 22-year-old shooter was declared incompetent to stand trial after tests determined he was schizophrenic suffering from paranoia and delusions.
The U.S. Congresswoman sustained critical injuries to her head but survived against all odds. On June 15, Giffords was released from a Houston rehabilitation facility following an impressive recovery.
“We deeply respect [Kelly's] achievements and his decision to focus on his family. We continue to send out our thoughts and prayers to Mark and his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as she makes a remarkable recovery,” added Bolden.