Capt. Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., said on Tuesday that he will retire from the Navy and from NASA to spend more time with his wife.
Kelly, a veteran of four space shuttle missions, announced his decision on his Facebook page; NASA later confirmed it.
"We deeply respect his 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," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
"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."
Giffords was shot in the head in January in Tucson, Ariz., by an attacker who killed six others around her, including a 9-year-old girl. Kelly said the couple would be writing a memoir.
Kelly took some time off from training for his last shuttle mission to help his wife recover. But as Giffords made rapid progress, he decided to go ahead with his Endeavour mission -- the next-to-last one for the space shuttle program. The final shuttle launch is scheduled for July. After that, NASA will rely on Russian spacecraft to get astronauts into space.
"I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them," Kelly wrote in his note.
"There isn’t a group more dedicated to its mission or more capable than the outstanding men and women of NASA. Exploration is a critical component of what makes our country great. We will continue to explore and NASA will continue to lead that effort.
Giffords is relearning to talk and walk, doctors say, and needs a 24-hour assistant. She is living in Kelly’s home in League City, Texas, near Houston.