NEW YORK — Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who collaborated with his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on her memoir, is writing a children's book about a mouse that goes to space.
"On my first space shuttle flight, we had 18 mice on board as experiments," Kelly said. "And 17 of them, as soon as we got into zero gravity, stayed latched on to the side of the cage. But one of them seemed comfortable through the whole mission, like he was enjoying it."
His "Mousetronaut: A Partially True Story" will be published in October by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. According to Simon & Schuster, which released a statement Monday, the book tells of a little mouse chosen for a space mission.
"While in space," the statement says, "the astronauts are busy with their mission when only the smallest member of the crew can save the day."
Kelly, who retired in the fall, turns 48 on Tuesday. Last year, he collaborated with Giffords on the memoir "Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope," which told of her recovery from a shooting.
He spoke by telephone recently with The Associated Press. The father of two girls from a previous marriage, he had long wanted to write a children's book and said he thought of the mouse story a decade ago.
"But with NASA as an employer, it becomes a little complicated. Now that I'm retired I can take time to do this," he noted, adding that he thinks kids will have an easy time relating to "Mousetronaut," which also will come out as an e-book.
"Many kids want to be astronauts," said Kelly, who was commander of the Endeavour's final mission, which ended June 1.
"Mousetronaut" will be illustrated by C.F. Payne, who has worked on books by John Lithgow and Steve Martin and has drawn numerous magazine covers.
Kelly's book deal was negotiated by Washington attorney Robert Barnett, who represented Kelly and Giffords for "Gabby," published last fall by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster. "Gabby" told of Giffords' remarkable survival after being shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, while meeting constituents at a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. Giffords, a Democrat, resigned from Congress last month to focus on her recovery.
Kelly said "Mousetronaut" was "fun" and was "not as emotional" as his wife's memoir.
The couple's collaborator on the memoir, Jeffrey Zaslow, was killed in a car accident Feb. 10. Zaslow, 53, also had worked on terminally ill professor Randy Pausch's million-selling "The Last Lecture" and on a memoir by commercial airline pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who guided a crippled plane to a safe landing in the Hudson River.
Kelly said Zaslow's death was "an incredible tragedy."
"He was such a wonderful guy, who touched so many people in such a positive way," Kelly said. "It reminded me, again, one year after the tragic event of Jan. 8, how things can change in an instant."