People like Giffords' Astronaut Husband Train to Put Feelings Aside

Article excerpt

Byline: Seth Borenstein Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Here's the challenge. Your wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has been shot in the head and is recovering, but still has a long way to go. You also have two teenage daughters and a high-profile, difficult and very public job.

So given all that, how do you fly, in just a couple of months, one of the world's most complex vehicles -- the sometimes deadly space shuttle?

Easy, says astronaut Mark Kelly, the Navy pilot and captain who resumed his duties Monday as commander of the shuttle Endeavour's final voyage in April. "Ignore stuff going on in your personal life and just focus on your mission. We get a lot of practice doing that. I've been doing that for 24 years.

"The key word there is being able to compartmentalize things," he said.

Putting aside problems and feelings in little boxes and zeroing in on the tough task at hand -- compartmentalizing -- is what astronauts, military officers, firefighters, surgeons and presidents do all the time. It's a good coping technique that works, especially for people like Kelly who is dealing with a family crisis, psychologists say.

Kelly explained his focusing abilities Friday at the news conference where he and NASA declared he would indeed lead the space mission he was assigned before his wife was shot in the head on Jan. …