Just a few years ago, Tim Dodd was known as that goofy YouTube guy who runs around in a secondhand spacesuit calling himself the “Everyday Astronaut”. Today he is a respected journalist with over 400,000 subscribers and substantial support from patrion. His videos take the topic of rocket science, the proverbial benchmark by which difficult topics are measured, and brings it down to the understanding level of an ordinary person. His goal is to educate the everyday man on these highly technical topics.
Through it all he exudes a youthful almost childlike enthusiasm for rocketry and space exploration. At major rocket launches, his YouTube channel provides commentary on the technical aspects of the mission. And he frequently attends launches in person where he provides live coverage and commentary. Recently when SpaceX tested its new Raptor engine on a test vehicle called “Star Hopper”, Dodd camped out in Boca Chica Texas to stream the event live. His educational video on what makes this new Raptor engine so special is an amazing achievement in educational videos.
He is so respected that at a recent SpaceX press conference, he asked questions of Elon Musk about his new Starship rocket and Musk’s first comment was that Dodd asks good questions on twitter. After the open press conference Dodd was able to corner the billionaire engineer genius, ask him to wear a microphone, and take one-on-one questions.
The end result is this unedited YouTube video in which Musk describes his philosophy of engineering. First of all we have to note that Musk isn’t a hands-off CEO. He in fact is the lead engineer at SpaceX. He goes on to explain how he was able to create this new rocket in such a short amount of time. His whole philosophy of engineering is contrary to what people are taught in school. Musk notes that in school you are given a problem to solve but you are not allowed to change the problem. You have to answer the question given to you. In the real world formulating the proper question in the first place is the key to success. He also talks against over compartmentalizing engineering designs. He notes that some other department will give you constraints for designing your piece of the project. You need to question those constraints because they are most certainly wrong. You know this because the alternative is that the constraints are perfectly correct and that can never be the case. He also notes too much engineering time is wasted on optimizing a part without asking the question first “Do we really need this component in the first place?”
The efficiencies that come from this somewhat radical approach to engineering have allowed him to create this amazing rocket in well less than a year. Check out the video above for the insights of this brilliant engineer and check out the Everyday Astronaut YouTube Channel if you want to learn more about rocket science.