It is with great sadness that I learned today of the passing of a
long-term friend of AMSAT, Mario Acuña, LU9HBG. Mario was a very senior
scientist/engineer at NASA Goddard where he made his name by providing
magnetometers for nearly every deep-space and planetary mission since
the 1970's. His vitae can be viewed at http://ssed.gsfc.nasa.gov/vitae/acuna.html,
and a nice writeup on him can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2005/jan/HQ_05022_acuna.html.
Mario never bothered to get a US call, although he often had HF
schedules with his relatives & friends in Argentina. In years past,
Mario and I were contemporaries at Goddard, and we often commiserated
about NASA's problems of "getting old"/"mature government bureaucracy"
and about the dearth of young innovative scientists who enjoyed
inventing new instruments. His loss hits me especially hard.
When a young Martin Sweeting wanted to fly magnetometers for navigation
on the earliest UoSAT's, Mario was the "go to" guy that put Martin on
the right track. Since magnetometers are biased by metal and electrical
currents in a spacecraft, Mario arranged for testing of the early
When Jan, Karl and I were trying to minimize radiation damage in
critical Phase-3 components (like the IHU and CMOS logic), Mario was
our mentor in helping to figure out the best way to minimize damage and
teaching us how to apply tantalum to the top and bottom of ICs.
GSFC Director Rob Strain posted this note earlier today:
From: On Behalf Of GSFC-PAO
Sent: Thursday, March 05, 2009 3:05 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Center Director Mourns Passing of GSFC Employees
It with profound sadness to inform you that Goddard has tragically lost
several members of its family in the past few days.
Acuña, a Senior Astrophysicist in the Planetary Magnetospheres Lab,
passed away last night, in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his
family and loved ones. Dr. Acuña was world renown for his work in
magnetic fields and plasmas in the solar system, and is one of most
prolific and accomplished scientists to ever work at Goddard. He has
been an Instrument Scientist, Co-Investigator or Principal Investigator
in multiple NASA and ESA missions such as Pioneer, Voyager, Mariner,
Giotto, Tether, ISPM, and many others, and the Principal Investigator
or Lead Scientist for the magnetometer investigations on the Near Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous Mission, Mars Global Surveyor, Lunar Prospector,
Messenger and STEREO. He was elected to the National Academy of
Sciences in 2007 and was honored by NASA with numerous prestigious
awards including the GSFC John C. Lindsay and Moe I. Schneebaum
Memorial Awards, the Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the
Distinguished Service Medal and a Presidential Meritorious Rank Award.
His death follows a valiant fight against multiple myeloma, a cancer of
the blood. He leaves a devoted wife, Barbara; sons Jamie, Andrew, and
Daniel; daughter Marta, and five grandchildren.