It has been a long 18 days of Captain Mark Kelly, commander of the final mission in the space shuttle Endeavour, and his wife Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering from surgery on her skull. Reunited in her hospital room Giffords said it was “like a first date”.

A nurse at the Houston, Texas rehabilitation center said the couple seemed like “newlyweds”.

Giffords is making a miraculous recovery having been shot in the brain just five months ago. While her husband was in space she had an operation to replace part of her skull, which was removed due to brain swelling.  Spokesman for Giffords, C.J. Karamargin, said that Kelly is delighted with his wife’s progress following her surgery.

Her husbanded landed, having commanded the 18-day Endeavour space mission to the International Space Center, on Wednesday evening. Following a short press briefing in Florida he came directly to Texas to see his wife. He was still wearing his blue post-flight suit when he came to the hospital. According to reports in the Daily Mail Kelly was excited about visiting his wife that he left his luggage on the air-strip in Texas.

Spokesman for Giffords C.J. Karamargin said the pair held hands for two hours. He said “It was actually a very touching moment. They are smiling ear-to-ear and haven't let go of each other's hands.”

Kristy Poteet, a nurse at the rehab facility, said Giffords had been excited all day. She had clutched the newspaper with a photo of the space shuttle on the front page to her heart. When Kelly landed he called Giffords. She told him she loved him three times.
Giffords was still putting her lipstick on when they heard Kelly running down the corridor. She blushed when she came into the room. They both said “I missed you” and hugged.

The couple spent ten minutes alone and were then reunited with their family and friends in the next room. They also exchanged wedding rings which, as per spaceflight tradition, they both wore on chains around their neck while they were apart.

Having been shot through the left side of the brain just five months ago Giffords recovery has stunned the public and commentators. Karamargin said “The progress made since then has been significant and noticeable. The stride, her actual step, is clearly improved. She walks with determination.' He added that

Karamargin said the Congresswoman looks 'great'. He said if it wasn’t for the bandage you would not know she had been shot.

After nearly five months of rehab Giffords is really to leave. She said “I want to get out of here”. Kelly said “She’s ready to become an outpatient. She's been here for a long time, and she's excited to leave. She made it very clear.”

The Endeavour space shuttle’s last mission was also Kelly’s last mission. Although he’s not sure what is next for him he has one date in his diary that he will keep. He said “I'll be here first thing in the morning with Gabby's coffee, with two raw sugars - she made that very clear.”

Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly in 2006Courtesy Gabrielle Giffords