Houston, we have an ‘Everyday Astronaut’

Tim Dodd, former UNI student, rose to fame in 2013 after posting pictures in this Russian space suit.

ALLISON MAZZRELLA, Staff Writer

An afternoon of online shopping at Sidecar Coffee shop brought about life changing moment for Tim Dodd.

In 2013 Dodd, who grew up in Cedar Falls and attended UNI, purchased a Russian high altitude survivor space suit online, which launched the career of his persona as the “Everyday Astronaut.” This journey is what Dodd discussed during his lecture on Tuesday at the Rod Library as part of the Hearst Lecture Series at UNI.

“This is probably the biggest reception I’ve had,” Dodd said of the turnout to the lecture. The lecture was attended by around 30 to 40 students, faculty and community members.

Dodd photographs himself in the Russian space suit in both ordinary and extravagant situations around the world, everywhere from Machu Picchu to the Kennedy Space Center.  Dodd also likes to hide easter eggs of hidden messages within the photos.

One UNI professor was instrumental in bringing Dodd to campus.

“When I became part of the Hearst committee, I suggested Tim because we wanted to include local people,” said Philip Hopper, committee member and associate professor of digital media. “We were looking for people who were innovators, people who also integrate various practices.”

The lecture began with an introduction by Hopper, after which Dodd delved into the evolution of his career.

Dodd, who has been a self-taught photographer since 2009, now focuses entirely on “Everyday Astronaut,” which Hopper described as, “The story of an adventurer stranded on earth.”

Dodd said he does this in an attempt to bridge the gap that separates rocket science with the general public — to bring space to earth.

“The future is all of us exploring this journey together.  If  we can at least unite upon exploring the cosmos together and learning more about where we are in the universe, I don’t see any harm in that,” Dodd said.  “The rest of the universe is for us to explore together.  To me, that’s just the most beautiful thing.”

“We’re living in an interesting time when I can be an online persona and be shrouded in almost privacy,” Dodd said. “My neighbors may not have any idea what I do for a living.”

Dodd supports himself through public speaking events, ad revenue from YouTube and contributions from fans.

“So far that’s the big question: how do you turn this into a career?  I’m making a very big sacrifice in income, compared to being a photographer full time, to pursue this,” Dodd said.  

Dodd, however, does not appear to have any regrets.

“I left campus very defeated,” Dodd said. “I was 21, and I would walk around campus and be like, ‘Why can everyone on campus do this, and I can’t?’  To come back and be able to share success feels pretty good.”

A brief time for questions and answers followed the conclusion of the lecture.  Dodd stayed around after, to talk and take pictures with the legendary space suit itself, as well to sign posters.

The Hearst Lecture Series was started by James Hearst.

“[James] decided he wanted an endowment for this lecture series in the name of his wife, Meryl,” said Gayle Pohl, associate professor of public relations and co-chair of the Hearst Lecture Committee.

The Hearsts deposited money into an account that went towards the six departments within the College of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.  The members of the committee change each year as it rotates through those six departments.

“We have a focus of community engagement,” Pohl said. “We want to really involve the community in the series,” Pohl said.

The next Hearst Lecture Series Lecture will be Thursday, Jan. 25, featuring notable sports writer Bob Ryan.