Astronaut Mark Kelly: Deep Space is Not so Far Away


Should Mark Kelly leave Gabrielle Giffords to go into space? Certainly, Mark Kelly's decision to go ahead with training in preparation for April's shuttle flight has spawned a cottage industry of moralizing.

It is very often that people have to be away from their loved ones during trying times. Many American families have soldiers away from their families for extended periods of time.

With few exceptions, these American troops are ordered overseas in the midst of having babies, divorces, illnesses, and a variety of other challenges. Sometimes such partings are fatal.

Kelly has been by his wife's bedside for as many hours as is humanly possible. There is no reason to believe he is anything but a devoted husband.

Considering that Kelly is a former jet jock who flew 39 combat missions in Iraq, one might add the words "dedicated" and "brave" to Kelly's character description. Those same adjectives apply to Gabrielle Giffords, by all accounts.

When a person possesses such qualities, they tend to look for the same qualities in others. Giffords' married the commander of the shuttle crew because of the person he is, not because she wanted him tethered to her bedside.

"I have every intention that she'll be there for the launch," said Mark Kelly.

The launch is in April. Kelly says his wife's doctors have told him Giffords will be well enough to attend.

When Kelly's decision became an issue for the media, I thought of two people who faced similar choices. Neither had anything to do with NASA or with politics.

James "Buster" Douglas chose to go ahead with his heavyweight title bout with legendary champion Mike Tyson in February 1990. Douglas' mother had died a few weeks before and the emotional upset had spread through his fight camp. Douglas thought about postponing the fight but knew he might never again get a chance to fight champion Tyson for the coveted title.

Had Douglas canceled, he might have been a talented but unknown boxer with a "one-way ticket to Palookaville," as Marlon Brando says in "On the Waterfront." As things turned out, Douglas' fight against the "unbeatable" Iron Mike Tyson was one of the most inspired performances in boxing history, a monumental personal triumph. He said later it was inspired by his mother.

The other example concerns Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, of Gilroy, Calif. In November 2007, two weeks before he was scheduled to defend his featherweight title against Martin Honorario, Guerrero learned that his wife had leukemia.

Guerrero elected to go through with the fight, leaving the bedside of his wife a few days before the fight. He KO'd Honorario in the first round, and then returned to his wife's bedside.