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Larry Sweet
Larry Sweet

Larry Sweet 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, Larry talks about his scientific research and his career as an engineer at the Geophysical Institute. He discusses his education, getting a job with the Institute, the use of rockets in atmospheric science, and collaborating with the military on research at Poker Flat Research Range. He also talks about the sense of teamwork at the Institute and working together to figure out equipment and instruments needed to accomplish research.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) Family background.

2) Secondary school.

3) The high school principal and the Geophysical Institute tracking Sputnik.

4) Deciding to become an engineer and work for the Geophysical Institute.

5) The college years.

6) Larry's first job with Lockheed.

7) Leaving his job at Lockheed and moving back to Alaska.

8) The military's involvement in science.

9) Working at the Geophysical Institute and the Geophysical Institute's mood and style.

10) Being professionals and able to figure out equipment.

11) The effect on the family due to an intense work schedule.

12) The sense of team work and camaraderie at the Geophysical Institute.

13) Getting involved in military programs.

14) Adventures with the military programs.

15) The pre-rocket launch routine.

16) The dangers of the radar beam and explanations.

17) Military project mishaps.

18) The military looks for a new rocket launch site.

19) Preparing the Poker Flat site and stories from Greenland.

20) The lack of leadership/responsibility within the military and the circumstances around the creation of Poker Flat Research Range.

21) The check-up on Poker Flat progress.

22) Finishing Poker Flat Rocket Range.

23) Concluding thoughts.

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: born -- Fairbanks\ parents -- Seattle\ father -- high school\ sheet metal -- Western blower\ Nome, Alaska\ work -- Road Commission\ railroad\ transportation -- mining\ mother -- relationship\ marriage\ Fairbanks\ mining\ parents -- middle class\ Fairbanks -- small town|

Section 2: Main School\ grade school\ Lathrop High School\ library -- moving\ high school -- active\ Alaska -- state requirements|

Section 3: cafeteria -- high school\ Lathrop High School class president\ Chena Ridge\ Farmers Loop\ science\ career\ Sputnik -- launch\ Geophysical Institute\ Sputnik -- tracking\ Merit, Bob\ Ballaine Lake\ ionosphere\ spacecraft -- weight|

Section 4: engineer -- electrical\ Fairbanks\ FE Company\ Lake, Jim\ project -- English\ consultant -- architectural\ Sputnik 1\ Geophysical Institute\ NASA\ vanguard project\ Merit, Bob\ Ballaine Lake\ field sites\ science\ college|

Section 5: high school\ college -- University of Alaska Fairbanks\ Washington State University\ University of Washington\ Seattle, Washington\ Lockheed Missiles and Space Company\ Sunnyvale, California\ college -- graduates\ antenna lab\ San Francisco Bay\ spacecraft antennas|

Section 6: Alaska\ Geophysical Institute\ antenna pattern -- plot\ antenna\ ground station\ rocket\ spacecraft -- launch\ Kodiak, Alaska\ lab|

Section 7: strip chart\ Kodiak, Alaska\ lab\ Alaska -- job\ Lockheed\ Bettles\ Allakaket\ barges -- surplus\ raft\ field site -- bush\ generator\ Geophysical Institute|

Section 8: Stanley, Glen\ C3 ionospheric sounder\ Fairbanks\ Barrow\ Allakaket\ generator\ field site -- tower\ rocket range\ military surplus equipment\ military -- help\ bush\ military exercises\ University of Alaska Fairbanks\ Boy Scouts\ survival schools -- winter\ bureaucracy|

Section 9: Stanley, Glen\ Davis, Neil\ Auroral Television Project\ Sputnik -- launch\ Geophysical Institute\ career path\ coil system\ magnetometers\ Hemholtz coil|

Section 10: Halinan, Tom\ television program\ television cameras\ images\ image earthalon tube\ Aurora -- study\ Aurora -- detail\ rocket launch\ electron accelerator -- launch\ NASA\ magnetosphere\ Ester Dome -- station\ Chena Hot Springs Road -- station\ rocket range\ Shaw, Glen\ Osborne, Dan\ Barrow\ Fort Yukon|

Section 11: family life\ Geophysical Institute\ rocket shot\ North Slope\ Geophysical Institute -- extended family\ Samoa|

Section 12: work -- stress\ work -- pranks\ money -- lack\ rocket shot\ Elgin Air Force Base\ Poker Flat\ Fairbanks\ Florida\ New York\ airplane -- PanAm\ weather -- launch\ teamwork\ camaraderie\ data|

Section 13: military programs\ universities -- United States\ work -- classified\ Aurora\ nuclear detonations\ magnetosphere\ nuclear bomb\ nuclear particles -- transportation\ electric fields\ magnetic fields\ BM and W ballistic missiles -- early warning\ mathematician\ tracking radar\ Aurora simulation\ rockets|

Section 14: Elgin Air Force Base\ military programs\ Vietnam -- training\ Cuba\ rocket launch\ triangulation\ television cameras\ television monitor\ North Star|

Section 15: rocket shot\ frequency\ noise -- filtering\ rockets\ camera\ calibration point|

Section 16: television monitor\ radar\ optic image\ radar beam\ building -- burning\ limit switches\ classified program\ military -- ability\ foul-ups -- bury|

Section 17: rocket range\ Poker Flat\ military program\ radar sites\ barium rockets\ Thule, Greenland\ New York City\ rocket shots\ military -- B52\ nuclear warhead\ B52 -- crashed\ Fort Churchill\ Akasofu, Syun-Ichi\ NASA\ Canada\ Greenland\ plane -- scientific research\ plane -- crash\ reporter -- NBC\ Aurora\ base commander|

Section 18: military craft\ airplane -- NASA\ Fort Churchill -- landing\ reporter -- NBC\ nuclear weapons\ Danish soil\ H-bomb\ Greenland\ latitude -- high\ Fairbanks\ White Sand Missile Range\ Joint Task Force 8 (JTF8)\ lease property\ Poker\ Nike sites\ launch range -- Nike\ Barrow, Alaska\ Geophysical Institute\ rocket range\ site -- Chena Valley|

Section 19: Poker Flat\ Carver, Jude\ mining site\ railroad rails\ railroad ties\ Usibelli\ mining cars\ bridge girders\ Chatanika\ nuclear weapon -- Danish soil\ Thule, Greenland\ Nielsen, Hans -- Dane\ Phoenix, Arizona\ nuclear disaster -- quick response team|

Section 20: Poker Flat -- political reason\ rocket launch\ Wallups Island\ Allakaket\ blockhouse\ military\ Joint Task Force 8\ Pentagon -- Defense Atomic Support Agency (DASA)\ nuclear weapons\ nuclear bombs\ Pentagon -- Advanced Research Program Administration (ARPA)\ White Sands Missile Range\ power line|

Section 21: Colonel's -- retirement\ rocket range\ Gilmore Creek -- packing station\ Fairbanks\ Geophysical Institute\ University of Alaska Fairbanks\ White Sands Missile Range\ military colonel -- house arrest\ Pentagon|

Section 22: military attitude\ security\ electrician\ Smith, Jack\ Chief of Security\ JTF8\ White Sands\ rocket range\ Fort Churchill|

Section 23: university administration\ engineer\ Geophysical Institute\ Synthetic Aperture Radar facility\ responsibility|