January 30, 2012 | « back

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE – Lessons from Above

By Clarence Fanto – Berkshire Eagle Staff

Is there intelligent life on another planet? That was the show- stopping question posed by Kim Taylor , James Taylor ‘s wife and mother of their twin sons, Henry and Rufus, to astronaut Dan Burbank, flight commander of the International Space Station, during a super high-tech satellite video link on Sunday afternoon.

“Looking at 200,000 stars, many of them with planets,” he responded without hesitation, “it’s almost inconceivable to me that there isn’t.”

“It’s highly likely that there is,” he added. “It’s almost impossible that we would be the only intelligent life. But the distances are too daunting that we could ever reach it.”

To the great amusement of the 20 Taylor family members, friends and staff gathered at his recording studio for the Earth-tospace event, the video and audio link through NASA’a Mission Control in Houston went dead for a few seconds just at that point.

After the signal was restored, James Taylor asked whether “there’s any chance any of us seated here could get a chance to go up into space.”

Burbank replied that there’s a future in privately funded space flight – “you could make an industry out of it, much more cost-

effective than the government.”

“This is the hardest thing people have ever done,” he cautioned, “and we’re hardly able to do it. I’m so grateful to wake up every morning to do this mission.”

A strong advocate of future space exploration, Burbank declared that ” people need frontiers, to be on the edge. I welcome the enthusiasm of young kids, we need their brains and smarts to keep this space program going. It’s what we’re meant to do.”

He predicted that by the time the Taylor twins and their friends grow up, “space travel will be very commonplace.”

As the available time for the satellite link expired, Taylor expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to chat with an on- the- job astronaut. ” It’s been phenomenal for us,” he enthused.

“We’re all fascinated by this stuff,” Taylor told The Eagle later. ” I wish we had the national will to push forward more with space exploration.” He expressed interest in boarding a commercially available flight “to see how I respond to weightlessness.”

“I’d love to go up there and see what it’s like,” when asked if he harbors dreams of a space flight.

Taylor ‘s fascination with exploration stems in part from his late father. Dr. Isaac Taylor spent 1955 and 1956 as a Navy lieutenant at McMurdo Station in the Antarctic, helping to build a medical dispensary at the under-construction U.S. research center, which connects by road to the South Pole. Taylor noted the coincidence that his first “pivotal live performance,” at the 1969 Newport (R.I.) Folk Festival, coincided with the first moon walk.

“I do have, as a layman, a scientific sort of curiosity,” he said, “so I found it fascinating” to talk to astronaut Burbank. “I had no idea this would go off as well as it did.”
Caption: James Taylor , his wife, Kim, and twins Rufus and Henry listen intently to flight commander Burbank.