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Nasa astronaut Piers Sellers dies of cancer aged 61

By KentOnline reporter

Respected former astronaut and climate scientist Piers Sellers has died, Nasa announced.

British-born Dr Sellers, who went to school in Cranbrook, flew on three space shuttle missions between 2002 and 2010.

He died on Friday in Houston, Texas aged 61.

Former Cranbrook school pupil Piers Sellers took part in three shuttle missions to space

Dr Sellers became just the third British-born person to go into orbit when he made his first trip to the International Space Station in 2002.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden described Sellers “a tremendous public servant who was "dedicated to Nasa, the nation and the world”.

Dr Sellers, who was originally from Crowborough in East Sussex, spent much of his time talking to young students in Kent to encourage them into science.

Astronaut Piers Sellers visits his old school, Cranbrook CofE

He revealed he had terminal cancer in January this year.

The-then 60-year-old told how he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in October.

Writing in the New York Times at the time, he said the most important thing he wants to do with his remaining time, aside from spending time with loved ones, is to continue his work on climate change.

Piers Sellers talks to pupils at his former school

NASA's deputy director of sciences and exploration, Dr Sellers said: "I've no complaints. I’m very grateful for the experiences I’ve had on this planet.

"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 future."

Dr Sellers left Cranbrook grammar school in 1973 and had to become an American citizen to be considered for the NASA programme.

Mission specialist Piers Sellers. Credit: NASA

He went on to spend a total of 35 days in space and was appointed an OBE in 2011.

Tim Peake, who this year became the first official British astronaut to live aboard the International Space Station, is said to regard Dr Sellers as a role model.

Paying tribute on Twitter, Tim Peake called Dr Sellers a 'true inspiration'.

A strident climate change scientist, Dr Sellers went on to feature in Leonardo DiCaprio's documentary on the subject, Before the Flood, which was released earlier this year.

He described described earth's atmosphere from space as 'a tiny little onion skin' which enabled him to better understand how delicate the planet is.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden went on to say of Piers: "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."

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