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John Miller
John Miller

John Miller was interviewed on May 6, 2000 by Bill Schneider at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this interview, John talks about his career as an engineer working at the Geophysical Institute, his research accomplishments, his collaboration with NASA and other scientists, and his use of Synthetic Aperture Radar and satellite imagery.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2000-18-09

Project: Geophysical Institute 50th Anniversary
Date of Interview: May 6, 2000
Narrator(s): John Miller
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
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1) Family and personal history.

2) Moving to Alaska and becoming interested in electronics.

3) Beginning his career at the Geophysical Institute.

4) Building a chamber to enhance echoes.

5) Projects with the Geophysical Institute.

6) Life at the Geophysical Institute and its relationship with NASA.

7) The Geophysical Institute's working relationship with NASA.

8) Should the Geophysical Institute be doing field engineering work?

9) Trying to establish a career with the Geophysical Institute.

10) A job offer to become a station director from European Space Research Organization.

11) Coming back to work for the Geophysical Institute.

12) Launching a radar satellite and receiving data.

13) Receiving data from SAR and the overflow of data.

14) The most important projects at the Geophysical Institute.

15) Receiving an image via Synthetic Aperture Radar.

16) European Space Agency established their own marketing division and organization to meet the needs of other people that use the radar data.

17) Job responsibility at the Geophysical Institute.

18) A landsat image in arctic sea ice between Wrangell Island and Siberia.

19) Retiring from the Geophysical Institute.

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Section 1: born -- Depression era\ motivation\ NW Pennsylvania -- grew up\ Meadville\ worked -- Western Union messenger\ enlisted -- 1948\ Army Signal Corp\ Korean War\ Alaska\ President Harry Truman\ Alaskan discharge|

Section 2: trained in electronics\ radio engineer -- KFAR\ Ballaine Lake\ Pennsylvania -- moved back\ worked -- television station\ television -- color\ Alaska -- moving back\ KFAR -- worked\ program manager\ engineering -- interested in\ electronics technician\ Alaska Communication System -- receiving station\ station -- used for other services|

Section 3: Bates, Skip\ Chapman Building\ ionosphere\ model C4\ antenna\ high power output\ radar\ energy\ frequency\ harmonic relationship\ echoes\ chamber -- built|

Section 4: machine shop -- supervisor\ apprentice\ coils\ tuner\ machine -- enhance echoes\ not effective\ operated unit\ interlocked sides\ Bates, Skip\ test tubes\ record\ replace tubing\ studies\ maintenance factors\ pulling tubing out\ tubes -- hot|

Section 5: Bates, Skip\ clipping signals\ echoes -- spikes\ echo returns\ F-layer\ E-layer\ E and F layer discrimination\ degree\ NASA\ Hoff, Harold L.\ satellite tracking station\ satellite orbit\ North Dakota\ Fairbanks\ geology\ civil engineer|

Section 6: NASA\ Ballaine Lake\ Hoff, Harold L.\ engineering degree\ design building\ Arctic engineering\ NASA -- equipment\ contract\ College mini-track station\ station -- transportable\ success|

Section 7: orbit observatories\ VHS band\ S-band\ C3\ man-made interference\ NASA\ power generating facility\ Gilmore site preparation\ contract\ Geophysical Institute\ employees -- increase\ funding -- steady from NASA|

Section 8: NASA -- stable funding source\ National Science Foundation (NSF)\ Air Force contracts\ staff -- laid off in the summer\ mini-track\ money\ antennas\ graduate students -- working\ Wilson, Bucky\ bridging gaps\ Gilmore Creek Project\ Mather, Keith -- Geophysical Institute director|

Section 9: opportunities -- searching for other\ NASA -- job offering\ station director -- Gilmore Creek\ Europe\ College mini-track station\ European Space Research Organization (ESRO)\ European Space Agency (ESA)\ VHF -- ground stations\ VHF -- wanted a station in Alaska\ proposal\ RCA\ Bendix Field Engineering\ GI proposal -- heavy overhead rate\ field sites -- maintaining\ ESRO -- selected Bendix Field Engineering\ ESRO -- offered job\ station manager|

Section 10: road -- building\ non-public road\ Chena Hot Springs Road\ homesteaders\ documents\ station -- built\ Gilmore Creek\ station -- operated\ Mather, Keith\ job offer\ head of Technical Services -- job opening\ Geophysical Institute -- coming back to work for|

Section 11: technical services\ shops\ field stations\ scientific services\ NASA\ science\ Weeks, Willy -- sea ice scientist\ optical viewing satellites\ sea ice -- covered in winter\ Wilson, Skip -- NASA\ radar imager for sea ice\ Weller, Gunter|

Section 12: Weller, Gunter\ Wilson, Skip\ Weeks, Willy\ sea ice\ radar satellite\ sea ice research\ ground station\ Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)\ ESRO\ NASA -- built the station\ radar satellite for sea ice\ NASA and ESA -- relationship\ data -- free access to\ ESA -- concerned about amount of data|

Section 13: data -- 10 minutes a day\ satellite -- in orbit\ work -- successful\ data -- 30 minutes a day\ solar panels\ ESA\ data -- receiving lots of\ NASA\ data -- processing\ data -- everyone wanted it\ radar -- pictures\ station director\ radar -- processing\ airborne radar|

Section 14: Geophysical Institute -- largest, best known\ results -- importance\ ground station\ data\ scientists\ Bates, Skip\ F1 echoes\ F2 echoes\ E echoes\ ASF\ Weller, Gunter\ signal\ antenna\ tracking beacons\ radar\ radar -- night time\ radar -- processor|

Section 15: Synthetic Aperture Radar\ light and dark\ Northern Canada\ island\ frozen water\ location\ images\ landmarks -- none\ radar satellites\ sea ice research -- requirements\ NASA -- approved researchers\ data -- users were limited\ SAR -- data\ list -- approved|

Section 16: Anchorage\ data -- receiving it\ ESA\ user fees\ satellite -- launching\ satellite -- maintaining\ oil spills\ SAR\ Prince William Sound|

Section 17: job responsibilities -- blurred\ cross training people\ SAR image\ Landsat Quick Look Program\ Gilmore Creek\ NASA\ ground station\ Landsat\ processing -- data into images\ Gilmore Creek antenna\ Wrangell Island\ Siberia|

Section 18: perfect circle\ four mile circumference\ sea ice\ airplane\ aviation week\ science tech\ arctic sea ice\ military\ image -- copy\ copies -- digital\ film -- library archive\ Air Force\ aviation week\ missile test -- through the ice\ cross trained\ data -- interest|

Section 19: 1993 -- October\ status -- Emeritus\ work -- small projects\ antenna -- Elvey Building\ data -- meteorological|