Piers John Sellers, OBE (born 11 April 1955) is a British-American meteorologist, and a NASA astronaut.[1] He is a veteran of three space shuttle missions. Sellers attended Cranbrook School, Cranbrook, Kent, United Kingdom, until 1973, and achieved a bachelor's degree in ecological science from the University of Edinburgh in 1976. In 1981 he gained a doctorate in biometeorology from the University of Leeds. In 2011, Sellers retired from the NASA Astronaut Corps.[2]

Before joining the astronaut corps, Sellers worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on research into how the Earth's biosphere and atmosphere interact. This work involved climate system computer modeling and field work utilizing aircraft, satellites and ground support input.

Personal life

Sellers was born in Crowborough, Sussex. His education started at Tyttenhanger Lodge Pre-preparatory School in Seaford, East Sussex, and Cranbrook School, Kent, from which he graduated in 1973 and where he was trained as a Royal Air Force cadet to pilot gliders and powered aircraft.[1][3][4] He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in ecological science from the University of Edinburgh and a doctorate in biometeorology from the University of Leeds.[5]

In January 2016 he revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.[6]


Sellers and his wife left the UK in 1982, moving to the United States, where he began his NASA career as a research meteorologist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.[1][3] Sellers's work in the field of meteorology focused primarily on computer modeling of climate systems, but he maintained his aircraft pilot skills.[7] Sellers began applying annually to become an astronaut in 1984, but his lack of US citizenship was a problem: he became a naturalized citizen in 1991.[8]

NASA career

Piers Sellers spacewalk

Sellers performing a spacewalk during STS-121.

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, Piers reported to the NASA Johnson Space Center in August 1996.[1] He completed two years of training and evaluation and was initially assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Computer Support Branch, followed by service in the Astronaut Office Space Station Branch.[1] During that time, Piers worked part-time in Moscow as a technical liaison on ISS computer software. Piers has logged over 559 hours in space, including almost 41 EVA hours in 6 spacewalks.[1] He retired in 2011.

Spaceflight experience

STS-112 Space Shuttle Atlantis (7–18 October 2002) was an International Space Station assembly mission during which the crew conducted joint operations with the Expedition-5 in delivering and installing the S-One Truss (the third piece of the station's 11-piece Integrated Truss Structure). To outfit and activate the new component, Sellers performed three spacewalks and logged a total of 19 hours and 41 minutes of EVA. The crew also transferred cargo between the two vehicles and used the shuttle's thruster jets during two maneuvers to raise the station's orbit. STS-112 was the first shuttle mission to use a camera on the External Tank, providing a live view of the launch to flight controllers and NASA TV viewers. The mission was accomplished in 170 orbits, traveling 4.5 million miles in 10 days, 19 hours, and 58 minutes.[1]

STS-121 Space Shuttle Discovery (4–17 July 2006) was a return-to-flight test mission and assembly flight to the International Space Station. During the 13-day flight, the crew of Discovery tested new equipment and procedures that increase the safety of space shuttles, and produced never-before-seen, high-resolution images of the Shuttle during and after its July 4 launch. The crew also performed maintenance on the space station and delivered and transferred more than 28,000 pounds of supplies and equipment, and a new Expedition 13 crew member to the station. Sellers and Mike Fossum performed three EVAs to test the 50-ft robotic arm boom extension as a work platform. They removed and replaced a cable that provides power, command and data and video connections to the station’s mobile transporter rail car. They also tested techniques for inspecting and repairing the reinforced carbon-carbon segments that protect the shuttle’s nose cone and leading edge of the wings. The STS-121 mission was accomplished in 306 hours, 37 minutes and 54 seconds.[1]

He took a velvet patch of the University of Edinburgh crest into space on this flight, which was sewn to the graduating bonnet used during the University's graduation ceremonies.[9]

Sts132 mission poster

STS-132 Mission poster

STS-132 Space Shuttle Atlantis (14–26 May 2010) was an International Space Station assembly mission. The primary payload was the Russian Rassvet Mini-Research Module along with an Integrated Cargo Carrier-Vertical Light Deployable (ICC-VLD). This was the final scheduled mission of Atlantis. Sellers took a 4-inch long wood sample of Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree– a piece from the original tree that supposedly inspired Newton's theory of gravity–along with a picture of Newton.[10] The wood is part of the collection of the Royal Society archives in London, and was returned there following the flight.[11]

He also took an original watercolor portrait of Cranbrook School painted by Brenda Barratt,[12] and a University of Edinburgh flag, which he presented to the University when he and his fellow crew members visited to give a talk about STS-112. This flag can be seen in the display cabinets behind the Reception at Old College, Edinburgh.

On the mission poster, which featured the crew playing baseball, Piers was photographed holding a cricket bat, symbolizing his English heritage.

Honours and awards

Sellers was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to science.[13][14]


PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 "Piers J. Sellers Biography". NASA. June 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  2. "Astronaut revisits experience of space". University of Edinburgh. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2015. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ernie J. Shannon (June 1996). "Piers Sellers Picked for Astronaut Corps". Goddard News. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  4. "2006 Preflight Interview: Piers Sellers". NASA. 23 February 2006. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  5. Jacqui Goddard (2006-06-30). "Lifelong dream come true for British astronaut". The Times. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  6. Piers J. Sellers (2015-01-16). "Cancer and Climate Change". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-01-17. 
  7. "NASA astronaut’s early career in WCRP". World Climate News. January 2007. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  8. "People and space". UK SPACE AGENCY. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  9. "Notable Alumni - Piers Sellers". University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 
  10. Staff (20 May 2010). "Astronauts Give Isaac Newton a Gravity-Free Tribute". Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  11. "Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree sample to go into space". BBC News. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  12. Jonathan Amos (25 January 2010). "'UK spaceman' Piers Sellers honoured". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  13. Template:London Gazette
  14. Jonathan Amos and Paul Rincon (2010-12-31). "New Year Honours: Astronaut Piers Sellers becomes OBE". BBC. Retrieved 2010-12-31. 

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