Gabrielle Giffords makes public appearance

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appeared at a public event last night for the first time since being shot in the head in a Jan. 8 attack in her home district of Tucson, Ariz.

The Arizona Democrat entered the auditorium at Space Center Houston to a standing ovation, ABC News reports, where her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, was set to receive his Spaceflight Medal for his recent trip on Space Shuttle Endeavor.

ABC's Gina Sunseri reports that Giffords rose from her wheelchair to offer her husband a congratulatory kiss and hug in front of the crowd of hundreds to whom she smiled and waved. The medal is awarded for participation in a space flight mission. Giffords reportedly smiled and interacted with those sitting around her.

This marked the first time Giffords appeared at a public event since the January shooting. The lawmaker attended her husband's first space shuttle launch date in April and its rescheduled launch in May, but was kept out of the public eye.

The public did get a glimpse into Giffords' recovery earlier this month when her staff released photos of the congresswoman.

Giffords was released from a Houston rehabilitation hospital June 15. And Kelly announced last week his decision to retire from NASA and the Navy in order to support his wife's recovery and spend more time with family.

The congresswoman's staff and family have refused to speculate about whether the lawmaker will be able to return to Congress this term and what her future political plans may be.

Meanwhile, new rumors have begun to circulate about her husband and whether he himself may enter the political arena now that he's ended his career as an astronaut.

Prior to the January shooting, Giffords had been tapped as a possible 2012 candidate for Senate. The Fix reports on interest among Arizona Democrats in a Kelly candidacy for his wife's House seat--or possibly the open Senate seat.