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, and a nice writeup on him can be found at

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 UoSATs.

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.
Dr. Mario 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.