“The entire NASA family mourns the passing of scientist and astronaut Piers Sellers.
“Piers was dedicated to all facets of exploration. His curiosity and
drive to uncover new knowledge was generously shared with audiences
around the world, both from space and in wide travels to reach as many
people as possible with an essential understanding of our fragile
“Piers devoted his life to saving the planet. As a climate scientist,
his work in computer modeling of the climate system, satellite remote
sensing studies and field work using aircraft, satellites and ground
teams broke new ground in our understanding of Earth’s systems. His
legacy will be one not only of urgency that the climate is warming but
also of hope that we can yet improve humanity’s stewardship of this
planet. His cancer diagnosis became a catalyst for him to work even
harder on efforts to save the planet from global warming for the benefit
of future generations.
“Piers was an eternal optimist whose positive energy inspired all
those who had the good fortune to know him. His laughter, humor, and
lighthearted spirit are as much a part of his legacy as his work.
“In his three journeys to orbit as a NASA astronaut, he demonstrated
robotics, performed research and helped build the International Space
Station. These journeys and his ongoing dedication to scientific inquiry
inspired a new generation to take up his challenge to become better
caretakers of Earth and extend humanity’s reach in space. It was my
great honor to present Piers with the Distinguished Service Medal in
June 2016 in recognition of his service to our agency and the world.
“In a New York Times opinion piece in 2016, he said, ‘As an
astronaut, I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth. Floating alongside
the International Space Station, I watched hurricanes cartwheel across
oceans, the Amazon snake its way to the sea through a brilliant green
carpet of forest, and gigantic nighttime thunderstorms flash and flare
for hundreds of miles along the Equator. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw
how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I’m hopeful for its
“Today we lost a tremendous public servant who was dedicated to NASA,
the nation and the world. He was a strident defender and eloquent
spokesperson for our home planet, Earth. Spacewalker and scientist, free
thinker and friend to our planet, and all who seek new knowledge, to
say he will be missed would be a gross understatement."
Charles Bolden, NASA