Piers Sellers, former astronaut and climate change scientist, passed away on December 23, 2016, from pancreatic cancer at the age of 61. Before his death, though, he recorded this short video message, reaching out to the global community as a scientist concerned about these changes and their largest cause: humanity.
Throughout his career, Sellers focused on characterizing and understanding changes in the Earth’s climate system. He was particularly interested in interactions between the Earth’s biosphere — its life — and the atmosphere.
In his message, Sellers describes Earth as a “beautiful planet” and speaks about how the planet and the life it supports have evolved “to fit each other perfectly.” However, humanity’s clear and measurable impact on the climate has the potential to wreak “potentially disastrous” results. He calls for groups such as scientists, policymakers, and industrialists to work together towards the common goal of maintaining the Earth as “a planet that can continue to support life — including all of us.”
Sellers first began working for NASA in 1982 as a scientist, before later entering the astronaut corps in 1996. He made three trips to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle between 2002 and 2010, contributing to research projects and assisting with the construction of the ISS during a total of six spacewalks. Sellers also served as a project scientist on the multi-national NASA satellite, Terra, which was designed to collect climate data for the purpose of measuring and monitoring Earth’s climate change. He had been the Deputy Director of Sciences and Exploration at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, since 2011.
Sellers also appeared in Before the Flood, a 2016 documentary produced in part by Leonardo DiCaprio. During the film, Sellers expresses optimism about the ability of humankind to make the changes necessary for the “safer future” he speaks about in his video message.