August 2020: A Note from Hope — I had the privilege of meeting Dr. James Thorne in Washington, DC back in 2016, just before his entertaining educational children’s program hit the stratosphere. The former Air Force officer with a lifelong passion for space exploration has created an increasingly popular program to teach kids about the solar system. You can see the sparkle in his eye when he talks about it — making it easy to see he was going to do whatever it took to bring his musical message about the joy of space travel to kids everywhere.
So it is with great pride that I introduce you to the man who this year won the Telly Award for his show, Space Quest with Dr. Jim. Scroll down to learn more about his journey from child protege to TV personality. And learn more about Dr. Jim here: jimthornemusic.com.
Who grows up to be a rocket scientist? “A kid who is fascinated by space travel,” explains Dr. Jim Thorne, who has combined his passion for astronautical engineering with a love of music to give us Space Quest with Dr. Jim — a 2020 Telly award-winning TV show.
The educational series is based on Jim’s CDs of songs, To Follow Apollo, and A Race In Space, which teach children (and adults) about space science and history. Jim brings the adventure to earth by telling the tale through the voices of two kids from the future — Tommy and Laura — who explore space with their robot companions, Piper and Vista.
In the decade that he’s been crafting the CDs and TV series, Jim’s stories and catchy tunes that have caught the attention and imagination of children around the world.
But that’s the sort of thing that Jim would have wanted for himself as a child growing up in western PA. Identified as a gifted student in the third grade, Jim was selected as the subject of a special research project by a graduate student in education.
He filled the next decade learning everything he could about math, science and space engineering, while studying to play the piano, guitar, banjo, trombone, and later jazz flute and mandolin.
Jim graduated from high school in three years, then began earning a degree in space engineering at Purdue University. “I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong,” says Jim, who spent the next 21 years in active duty in the US Air Force working with space systems. He also completed his masters and PhD degrees in astronautical engineering.
One of his proudest accomplishments is solving a 300+ year-old problem in orbital mechanics. “It was described as difficult by Isaac Newton,” admits Jim, proudly noting the equation he derived is known in scientific literature as Thorne’s Solution of the Lambert Problem.
For fun, Jim began performing music at venues near his home in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. In 2014, he was contacted by a talent agent from New York who liked his family-friendly comedy songs, and suggested that he might try writing for children.
“After writing several folk-style story songs, I noticed that a song I wrote about space travel called The Stars Go By captured the imaginations of the children,” says Jim, so he started playing it in elementary schools as part of space science presentations.
“The response was so positive, he decided to inspire children with a full album called To Follow Apollo about two characters, a young boy and girl named Tommy and Laura, who go on scientifically accurate adventures in the solar system and beyond.”
Jim then released A Race in Space, where Tommy and Laura continue their missions to the planets and also take a trip back in time to photograph the early space launches to create a history display in the future.
Seven new songs touch on specific questions from the state Standards of Learning (SOLs) for elementary students to help them prepare for their tests in school. Some local students were very pleased when they used the title track “A Race in Space” to study for, and pass their standardized tests.
As for where Dr. Jim is going next, he plans to create even more episodes for his award-winning TV show, writing music and singing songs about space.
He insists: “Life is a grand adventure. Keep your eye on the sky — and keep thinking for yourself!”