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October 9th, 2012
01:11 PM ET

Fmr. Astronaut Mark Kelly 'optimistic' on Baumgartner's record free-fall attempt, says Giffords continues to improve

An attempt by the Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner to free fall 23 miles is back on after a brief hold for weather conditions this morning.

It's a little scary and a little risky. Somebody who might know something about that is retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. He is also the husband of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

He talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to talk Baumgartner's attempt and also his new children's book "Mousetronaut," based on his very first trip to space in the space shuttle.

Kelly says though Baumgartner's stunt carries a lot of risk, he thinks the Austrian skydiver can pull off the jump.

"If he's got a good engineering team and his suit works and, you know, as he hits the atmosphere, if he can withstand those forces and then finally the chute opens he should be OK. I'm optimistic. I think he can do this," he says.

"We send guys out to do space walks, I mean, routinely and that's a very similar thing to what you're looking at there with the exception of he's his own re-entry vehicle. So that's pretty hazardous," Kelly adds.

Kelly says his inspiration for his children's book "Mousetronaut" came from his first shuttle flight on Endeavour in 2001.

"We had 18 mice on board. Of those 18 mice, 17 of them stayed kind of latched on to the inside of their cages. They were very nervous about being in space. But one little guy seemed to get it, enjoyed weightlessness, would go over and get his water and his food. We enjoyed watching him a little bit and that was impetuous to this story," Kelly says.

He found the inspiration to write the book to inspire kids to learn. "I think it's important to have material for young kids to be interested in, and my experience has been that kids are interested in astronauts and space and they are also interested in animals. So I put the two there together and hopefully, they will be interested in this book," Kelly says.

Kelly says his wife Gabby is doing well and is continuing her recovery.

"She continues to work on that physical therapy and her right arm doesn't work at all, it's paralyzed," Kelly says. "Speaking is still something that she works on every single day with speech - almost every day with speech therapy. We recently moved back to Tucson and that's great for her to get home. She's continuing to improve."

"If she continues to get better, she will have the opportunity to go back to work," Kelly adds.

Filed under: Education • Gabrielle Giffords • Space