Science & Environment

New Year Honours: Astronaut Piers Sellers becomes OBE

Piers Sellers (Nasa)
Piers Sellers has logged 35 days in space on three Nasa shuttle missions

British-born astronaut Piers Sellers has been appointed an OBE in the New Year Honours List for his services to science.

Dr Sellers, who was born in Crowborough, East Sussex, has flown on three space shuttle missions - most recently in May this year.

Like other astronaut candidates born outside the US, he had to become an American citizen to be considered.

The science journalist and broadcaster Vivienne Parry is also awarded an OBE.

Dr Sellers is one of only five UK-born people to have flown into orbit so far - out of some 500 in total across the world.

"It is a tremendous honour, and I'm really glad that the whole business of spaceflight has been recognised in the UK," he told BBC News.

He first joined Nasa in the 1980s, working at the Nasa Goddard Space Center in Maryland. It was there that he succeeded in getting on to the Nasa astronaut programme.

Dr Sellers first flew into space aboard the shuttle Atlantis in 2002, during which he carried out three spacewalks to help continue the assembly of the International Space Station.

His next flight was aboard Discovery in 2006, a crucial mission designed to test improved safety measures following the 2003 Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts died.

In May this year, Dr Sellers boarded Atlantis for a second time to deliver a Russian-built module to the space station.

With the shuttle programme coming to an end, Dr Sellers - who holds a degree in ecology and a PhD in climate simulation - is set to return to Nasa Goddard to resume his science pursuits.

In 1994, Ms Parry became a presenter for the BBC's Tomorrow's World programme. But she is also well known as a broadcaster on BBC Radio 4 and as a columnist and writer for the Guardian and Times newspapers.

She is also active in the charity sector, having worked with the Princess of Wales for several years at Birthright - now called Wellbeing of Women - which works in partnership with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.