Posted by: Dan | March 4, 2009

To A Great Man, From Your Son

As I sit here and watch my father disappear before my very eyes, my heart feels a pain like none I have ever felt before, for my Dad, my hero, is slowly fading away, leaving only a shell of the great man I once knew. I try not to cry, I try to be strong, but that is a futile task, for the love I have for my father is too great to be constrained by pain and sorrow. The tears must flow and the anger must come against this terrible cancer that is taking his life. I really cannot stand to see him this way. It just breaks my heart to see such a great man coming to such a tragic end.

My dad truly was a great man and I will always remember him that way. I will always remember him as a teacher, a friend, an educator, a confidant, a repairman :), and an amazing parent. He stressed in me from an early age, the value of education, but at the same time, to take time for friends and family, and just to have fun. He knew we all needed a little bit of both to succeed in this world and he definitely led by example. He loved his job at NASA and had a never-ending thirst for knowledge and truth. But, at the same time, he made sure we were all loved and taken care of. He made sure to challenge us to think; about the world, about politics, about science, about anything really. As long as we were thinking and pushing ourselves forward, I believe my Dad was happy.

Personally, he pushed me to be better than I thought I could be. He pushed me to get good grades all throughout my life, get into a good college and then start a good life for my family and myself. He used to tell me to choose a career I could see myself doing for the next 30 years, and to this day, that is something I ask myself every day (what would Dad do). What choice would he make in this situation? Now, I may have disappointed him from time to time, and of course we had our disagreements, but I hope he knew that I tried my best to find my place in this world and to represent him and the last name he gave me to the best of my ability. I hope he was proud of me. I hope he was proud of the life I have built for myself thus far.

Very few people get to live the life they dream of, but my father lived his dream every day of his life. He chased his dreams all the way from Argentina to the U.S., and in the process, created an unbelievable life for not only himself, but also for those he loved.

I hope to be exactly like my father and to earn the respect and love I have seen that EVERYONE has for him.

Dad, I will miss you terribly, but I take solace in the fact that you will be with God and feel no more pain or sorrow. You will be at peace.

I know we will see each other again, of this I am sure. So, as they say in Argentina, “Hasta Pronto” (“See you soon”).

Love, Always,

Your son,

P.S. Do not worry about Emily or the new baby, they will be fine. I will make sure they are brought up in the Mario way. I know you will look down on them and protect them, always.



  1. It is with the greatest sadness that I received the latest news about Mario’s health. You might be wondering who I am: I met Mario in 1992 when I was 17 and I was invited to the Argentinean Embassy in DC. At that time I was an enthusiastic 1st year astronomy student at the university of Cordoba and Mario challenged me about how much I knew on Mars’ magnetism. That question eventually shaped my career, as (beacuse of him) I ended up in Toulouse in 2000 doing my PhD on the measurements from the Mars Global Surveyor Magnetometer of which he was the principal investigator. During those years I witnessed his quality as a leader, as a scientist, but above all, his unbreakable sense of ethics, something so mis-appreciated these days. My ultimate gift was to see him sitting at my Thesis committee in Toulouse on December 2, 2003, when I passed my Viva. As proper Argentineans, we later had some empanadas and vino tinto, and cordobeses jokes…
    I kept in touch with him quite regularly after that, even If I was in London working in a different space mission. Although, I could realize my dream to go work with him at Goddard, in my mind, I always tried to undertake new projects with him, especially with our minds set in Argentina. After 8 years living abroad, I returned to Buenos Aires as a researcher of the Argentine Research Council. And in the last few months Mario enthusiastically started helping me setting up a magnetometer laboratory in my new institute, a little bit to honor him I must confess :). I knew about his illness by then, but in his emails he showed the usual strength and conviction. That is why all this came to me as a sad surprise. I am very, very sad, but all I can remember now are the dinners we had everytime we ran into the one another in a scientific meeting: Toulouse, San Francisco, Bern, Buenos Aires, around a table with some nice food and a bottle of wine 🙂
    I would like to stress how an extraordinary person and example your father was for all of us. I will certainly miss his guidance in the years to come. I’m just glad that I met him and that he left us such good values to continue his scientific legacy.
    I would like to send all the Acuña family all my love and respect.

    Cesar Bertucci

  2. It is difficult for me to say anything right now about my good old friend Mario, except that if had not been for him Argentine, his beloved country, would not have developed space research as fast as it did.

    Personally, I was always honored by the fact that he considered me a good friend and I’ll always remeber our endless discussions at a bar, a restaurant, his house, my house, wherever. As we say in Argentina, Mario you were “Un Grande”!!!!!

    My love to his family

  3. What a loss…! The world will certainly remember Mario as a one of the brightest aerospace scientists and engineers. There are many of us who also have the privilege of remembering him as our teacher and mentor. His devotion to space science, and enthusiasm for all engineering things made him truly unique, and always ready for a discussion about a space mission concept, a magnetometer, or a car transmission (:-). He had natural talent and enthusiasm for teaching. (and lots of patience doing that…) He had such a positive influence in the early career of so many young engineers and postdocs (with a bit of preference for us Argentineans) (:-) ! It was an honor working with him.

    My love to his family

  4. Mario was not just a great man, he was also a good friend and a very fun person to have around. AGU, EGU, COLAGE and many other meetings related with the space exploration won’t be the same without Mario.

    HIs brilliant intelligence, his quick wit and his friendshipo will be missed. But I am sure that in every meeting where we used to see him, many memories will be spoken…

    To the family my love…

  5. Dani, tú padre Mario, se preocupaba mucho de ti y te quería mucho, recuerdo en alguna conversación que tuve con él algún comentario al respecto.
    Aunque sólo estuve con vosotros aproximadamente un mes, me acuerdo perfectamente de cómo era: sencillo, afable y muy generoso, un gran hombre. Me enteré de lo ocurrido ayer, estoy muy disgustado con la noticia.
    Aprendí muchas cosas con él, la vida no es justa pero tenemos que aceptarlo.
    Remember the force.

    Un beso muy fuerte.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: