In June 2016, the Priestley Centre established the Piers Sellers Prize in the name of Piers John Sellers – Leeds alumnus, renowned climate scientist, astronaut and Deputy Director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate and Acting Director of the Earth Sciences Division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
When the Priestley Centre launched in June 2016, Piers Sellers sent a video message in which he said: “I love Leeds University and I am still in awe of the reach and spirit of the place…”
After receiving a doctorate in biometeorology from the University of Leeds in 1981, Piers moved to the US to work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center researching the interaction between the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere. Piers joined the astronaut corps and was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1996. A veteran of three space flights and six spacewalks, Piers logged just under 35 days in space.
As serving Deputy Director of the Science and Exploration Directorate, Piers Sellers oversaw research and mission design for the space and Earth sciences, including climate. He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award (1994); Arthur Fleming Award (1995); Fellow of AGU (1996); AMS Houghton Award (1997); Fellow of AMS (1997); Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for services to science (2011); Space Foundation 2017 General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award (2017).
Piers Sellers passed away on Friday 23 December 2016 in Houston from pancreatic cancer.
“As an astronaut I spacewalked 220 miles above the Earth…. From this God’s-eye-view, I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the Earth is. I am hopeful for its future.” – Piers Sellers, New York Times, January 2016