Endeavour commander Mark Kelly quits NASA

'Not an easy decision', admits veteran astronaut

Mark Kelly, the veteran combat pilot and astronaut, has announced he's retiring from the US Navy and quitting NASA on 1 October.

Mark Kelly. Pic: FacebookIn an announcement on his Facebook page, Kelly admits it was "not an easy decision" to move on from a career which has encompassed Desert Storm combat missions and four space shuttle trips to the International Space Station.

Kelly was the commander of Endeavour on its last mission - STS-134 to the ISS - while his wife, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was recovering from the headshot she received in the Tucson shooting in January.

During that trip, commander Kelly took a moment to record a message for the crowd at a U2 gig at Quest Field, Seattle:

Back down at Facebook, Kelly says: "As life takes unexpected turns we frequently come to a crossroads. I am at this point today.

"Gabrielle is working hard every day on her mission of recovery. I want to be by her side. Stepping aside from my work in the Navy and at NASA will allow me to be with her and with my two daughters. I love them all very much and there is no doubt that we will move forward together. After some time off, I will look at new opportunities and am hopeful that one day I will again serve our country."

Whatever the future holds for Kelly, he's certain that NASA will continue on the right track without him. He insists: "I know that as our space program evolves, there are those who will question NASA's future. I am not among them. 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." ®

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