Nobel laureates get to chat with astronauts during space station call

Two of the Nobel winners said they would like to swap places with the space travellers.

Press Association
Last updated: 6 December 2019 - 4.40pm

Two of this year’s Nobel laureates have held a video call with two members of the International Space Station’s crew.

The Friday call was part of the public appearances of winners in the Swedish capital ahead of next week’s prize presentations.

After the crew took some questions from winners of the physics and chemistry prizes, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano asked if any of them would switch places with him.

Didier Queloz and M. Stanley Whittingham said they would.

“Nothing prevents an astronaut to get another prize,” Mr Queloz quipped.

Mr Whittingham, 77, said he would have switched places if he were younger.

Mr Queloz and Michel Mayor, who was also on the ISS call, share this year’s prize worth nine million kronor (945,000 US dollars) for discovering the first extra-solar planet orbiting a sun-like star.

Mr Queloz asked the astronauts about how they viewed the prospects of finding life elsewhere in the universe.

“We would be very naive statistically to think that there is no life on other planets,” said US astronaut Jessica Meir.

“One of the interesting things about it is that life might not look anything like us; it might not even be carbon-based.”

Mr Whittingham is one of the three winners of this year’s chemistry Nobel for development of lithium-ion batteries.

The batteries were praised by Ms Meir, who noted that they have been recently installed on the space station, replacing nickel-hydrogen batteries for “significant performance advantages”.

One lithium-ion battery can replace two of the previous batteries and last 10 years instead of six and a half years, she said.

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