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NASA Announces Near-Term Replacement For Mark Kelly

Mark Kelly, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' husband, said in a statement released by NASA that he is "hopeful" he'll be able to complete training for mission STS-134, which scheduled to depart for the International Space Station April 19.

Kelly, the statement said, is still the commander of the mission, but NASA named Rick Sturckow as his backup.

Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office added:

[Kelly] is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's care.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.