Online From Jupiter 97
Johnie M. Driver
Software Operations Engineer
My name is Johnie M. Driver. I am 62 years old and have worked at JPL for 29 years. Most of the work I have done here has been involved with various aspects of spacecraft mission planning -- looking down the road to determine what new missions did it make sense to do, what capabilities would it take to do them, or could they be done in the manner that someone else proposed to do them. The work has involved doing trajectory analysis, propulsion system evaluation, instrument analysis. All of these areas were brought together in an article that I wrote for the "Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets" entitled "The Analysis of An Arctic Polesitter." That article investigated the feasibility of using solar-electric propulsion to keep a spacecraft suspended over the North or South polar region at a few lunar distances above the earth to observe seasonal and structural changes in those regions for a year or more.
Currently I am involved in developing and using computer programs which aid in generating and verifying instructions for commanding the Galileo spacecraft. Generating and checking the spacecraft commands is a lengthy process, and having computer programs that can do as much of this work as possible is a crucial part of flying a spacecraft.
The most interesting part of my current job is the challenge of finding methods that do this work quickly and accurately with as little manual effort as possible. This will, of course, result in being able to do the work required in less time, making more time available to do more creative things.
When I was growing up, the things I believe helped me most toward a career in engineering were my love of reading and solving riddles and puzzles -- crossword, rebus, picture, logic riddles. I read all kinds of things -- novels, comics, poems, biographies. And I loved to build things. I even enjoyed taking tests. There was no person that I recall encouraging me to do these things; I simply enjoyed them. And I always had a fascination with things that flew.
The small town school I went to as a teenager didn't have a 12th grade so as soon as I was old enough I joined the Air Force where I became an instructor of aircraft mechanics. While in the Air Force I began taking college extension courses. After 8 years in the Air Force I left and studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois and received a Master's Degree in 1963.
My first job after college was with Sperry Utah which produced missiles and other weapon systems for the Army. After three years there I got the opportunity to join JPL to work on spacecraft development and have done so continuously since that time.
I have one son, age 31, engaged in architecture, and a daughter, age
8 in 4th grade. Both of them are skillful in the use of computers and
have a flair for graphic art -- probably because I always had a computer
around for them to play with and possibly because I was doing the same.