Published: Jan 13, 2011 8:19 PM EST
Updated: Jan 13, 2011 5:19 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) - NASA has named a backup commander, if necessary, to take the place of the astronaut husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot last week.

The space agency emphasized that Capt. Mark Kelly, who is Giffords' husband of more than three years, is still the commander for the final scheduled flight of the space shuttle program.

Endeavour is scheduled to launch on April 19 on a trip to the International Space Station.

Kelly said in a written statement released by NASA that he recommended to the space agency that they "take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence if necessary."

Chief astronaut Peggy Whitson said the move allows Kelly to keep his attention on his family.