Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) takes part in a reenactment of her swearing-in, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 5, 2011. Giffords was shot Jan. 8, 2011. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Giffords has been steadily improving, and can now walk a little, though she is still speaking in short sentences. When told she was cleared to travel, Giffords said “awesome” and pumped her fist, according to husband Mark Kelly.

Friday’s trip to Cape Canaveral in Florida will be Giffords first trip since the shooting three months ago.

Will it also be her eagerly awaited return to the public eye?

Not quite. Giffords apparently has no plans for a public appearance Friday, and families view launches from a restricted area.

Photos of Giffords’s progress have been tightly monitored since the shooting, so the public has followed Giffords recovery through reports. But they’ll have to wait a little while longer to see the congresswoman walk or hear her speak.

A large part of the excitement surrounding Giffords has been talk of a 2012 Senate run for her. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) recently announced that he won’t run in 2012, giving the Democrats an unexpected shot at the Arizona Senate seat. Giffords had expressed interest before being shot and some say she is better positioned now more than ever to take that seat.

President Obama recently wrote a tribute about the congresswoman in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world, calling Giffords “a needed voice that cannot return soon enough.”

He also wrote: “Before that morning, Gabrielle Giffords may not have been a household name.... Now she's got the prayers of a nation rooting for her.”

She’s a household name now. And the excitement will only continue to build before she returns to the public eye.