Posted by: Andy | March 5, 2009

A Brilliant Light Extinguished

Early this morning our beloved father passed away, in comfort and surrounded by his loving family. He will be dearly missed. We love you dad!


Date: Monday, March 9
Times: 2 – 4 PM, 6 – 9 PM (Memorial Tribute at 8 PM)
Place: Robert E. Evans Funeral Home
16000 Annapolis Rd., Bowie, MD
Phone: 301-464-8836

A Memorial Tribute will be held during the visitation at 8PM at which you can share your thoughts and memories of Mario.

Funeral Mass
Date: Tuesday, March 10
Time: 11 AM
Place: Sacred Heart Catholic Church
16501 Annapolis Rd, Bowie, MD
Phone: 301-262-0704

Repast to be held in Carroll Hall following mass.


In Lieu of Flowers

Mario H. Acuña Memorial Fund

Contributions may be sent to the Mario H. Acuña Memorial Fund at The Catholic University of America:

The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue, NE
Aquinas Hall, Room 106
Washington, DC  20064

(Checks should be made payable to The Catholic University of America and should reference the Acuña Fund on the memo line)

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation

Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
383 Main Avenue, 5th floor
Norwalk, CT 06851

(Checks should be made payable to “MMRF”)



  1. To the Acuna family:
    I worked with Mario and knew his science before I knew him. He was an amazing colleague — a bright light at NASA — what a loss. I am literally sitting in a meeting where we are discussing a spacecraft about to launch carrying one of Mario’s instruments — so please know that he will live on through his amazing work, and through his family and friends. Our hearts are with you all today.

  2. To the Acuna family:
    It is very sad to learn of the struggle that Mario has been enduring during the past year and his final passing. I have been fortunate to get to know Mario during the past few years. While he was a bear of a man with a deep intimidating voice, he was among the nicest people I have ever known. He has been generous with his time to help me develop a system to make magnetic measurements in the Antarctic using his magnetometers. It was always uplifting to see Mario and talk with him. I certainly feel a deep loss and my thoughts are with you and Mario.


  3. To the Acuna Family,
    This is sad, sad news. My condolences on the loss of Mario. I only knew Mario through the Juno program. It was inspiring to see the respect he commanded from his colleagues at all levels; respect that went well beyond the usual professional relationship to what I would call love. Love returned to a man that gave himself fully to the science and the teams that he loved so much. His expertise, leadership, and example will be greatly missed. I know that you will miss him even more. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  4. Dear Acuna family – my deepest sympathies during this great time of loss. Mario was a friend, colleague, and role model. I will miss seeing his smiling face and hearing his fatherly advice. He was truly a great man whose legacy will live on.

    Dan Krieger

  5. Dear Acuna family,

    On behalf of the science staff at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, we wanted to send our collective warm wishes during this sad time of loss of Dr Acuna. He was a respected colleague and friend, many of us are very familiar with his work. We are very sorry to lose him.

    Best regards,
    Melissa McGrath
    Chief Scientist, Science & Mission Systems
    NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

  6. To the Acuna family:

    I was a young engineer at GSFC when I met Mario back in the 70’s. I always admired his intellect and sharp wit and he became one of my mentors. Later in my career I had the privilege of working closely with him on the SAC-B project where Mario and I spent time together in Argentina several times.

    Mario was a world-class scientist, but most importantly, he was a kind and generous man. And although he was serious and passionate about his work, he knew how to enjoy life and have fun while doing it. This is a great loss for the NASA community.

    My condolences and prayers are with you. I too grieve because I lost a dear friend.

    Goodbye Mario!

    De tu amigo…
    Eddie Torres

  7. To the Acuna family,

    This is terribly sad news. I didn’t know Mario well, but knew him as a giant in his field and as a warm, generous human being. He was always willing to answer a question, no matter how naive, and to give his unvarnished opinion on affairs at Goddard.

    Mario is irreplaceable. We can’t even imagine how sorely he will be missed at Goddard. I know that the family misses him even more, for which you all have my deepest sympathy.

    Landis Markley

  8. To the Acuna family,

    This is very sad news!

    I have worked with Mario on a number of projects and always felt I had a friend in him. I loved to sit with him and hear about his tremendous experiences and his always on-the-point worldviews.

    I admired him for his way to explain and focus on important issues. I don’t know how he did it!

    It will be difficult to go to a MESSENGER meeting, or many other similar meetings and not see Mario walk in the door. I will always wait for him to ask that one probing question that makes theorists afraid because it exposes the underlying weakness of their thoughts!

    We are a poorer community today, but we are a richer community because of all he has done during his incredible career.

    Good bye, Mario!

  9. To the Acuna family,

    I am so very sad to receive this news. I have worked here in the Goddard magnetometer lab for Mario for a few years now. He was an inspiring leader, a resource of seemingly limitless knowledge, and a tremendously gifted engineer. I learned a lot from him. I count it a great privilege to have known him. My thoughts and prayers are with the whole Acuna family.

    Dave Sheppard

  10. To the Acuna family,

    On behalf of the SAIC (Ideas) staff at Columbia, Md. who had the pleasure and good fortune to work with Mario on many flight programs over the last three decades we send our condolences and prayers to the Acuna family –he was indeed a great man and we all loved him and will miss him dearly both professionally and as a friend.

    Jack Coulson

  11. To the Acuna Family and Friends,

    Mario and his work showed us more about this solar system, this planet, and what a brilliant mind and indomitable spirit can achieve than we ever dreamed possible.

    Mario made this world a much better place.
    Mario was a hero. I liked, revere and miss him.
    My words and tears are not enough.

  12. Querida familia

    mañana viernes 6 de marzo a las 20 hs.,”la gran familia argentina de Mario” nos reuniremos en la iglesia La Compañia de Jesús (Córdoba).
    A pesar del profundo dolor que su partida significa para nosotros, será una hermosa oportunidad para reunirnos en familia como a él le gustaba y recordarlo con el amor y la admiración de siempre.
    Un cálido abrazo a cada uno de ustedes. Los queremos mucho y los esperamos pronto por aquí.

    Chau padrino!, portate bien allá arriba y aprovechá para seguir aprendiendo y sacarte todas las dudas que te hayan quedado sobre el universo con el Barbablanca… el autor de tu gran pasión.
    Con amor, tu ahijada Cuqui.

  13. Dear Acuna family,

    It is with deep sadness that I learned about the passing away of Mario.This feeling is shared by my wife Ursula and daughter Irene,who both knew him personally since our visits to the US.
    I feel greatly privileged to have known Mario not only as a brilliant engineer and scientist but also as a human with a great and generous personality, whom I could count among my best friends in the scientific community.
    Our first close cooperation was the work for the proposal for the Voyager magnetometer experiment, its implementation and later data analysis. Last time I met him personally was during a science meeting in Toulouse. Also I remembered Mario about one year ago during a private visit to San Carlos de Bariloche and Lago Nahuel Huapi in Argentina, which appeared on my mental landscape as a consequence of our many discussions on his home country Argentina , in which he was always interested ,while he was solidly established in the United States.
    We will miss Mario very much !

    Best regards,

    Fritz, Ursula ,Irene

  14. To Mario’s family:

    All of Mario’s colleagues are deeply saddened by his passing. I share your grief and sense of deep loss. He contributed so very significantly to many spacecraft missions because of his knowledge and experience. He shared valuable information about how to conduct space experiments easily and generously. His optimism was infectious and his upbeat spirits often carried the day when challenging problems arose, were they technical or organizational. His warmth about people and society in general was also the hallmark of the great human being he was. The world’s space science community knew him as a result of his unselfish help and support. He was one of the most talented scientist-engineers I ever met. His many talents and personality will be sorely missed by his colleagues and the space science community.

    With deep affection and prayers,

    norman ness

  15. Even though I was not in touch with Mario in the latest years, it was with great sadness that I learned his passing away.
    I will always remember him for his support and invaluable advice and guidance when, here in Argentina, we have a dream: “to built a satellite”; this dream came true because of him.
    He always encouraged us to fight against all the problems we found: bureaucratic, technical, lack of money, but about all he believe in ourselves, that we can do it!!!

    My deepest sympathy to the Mario family.

    Mario: te recordaremos siempre con cariño, no solo por tu apoyo y guia en el area tecnica (que fue insustituible), sino especialmente por tu calidez humana.

    Ana Maria Hernandez

  16. To the Acuna Family,

    Our deepest sympathy goes out to you all during this difficult time. Mario was an extraordinary man who I had the privilege of knowing! May he rest in peace.

    Stacie Palmer

  17. I had the fortune to meet Mario over a decade and a half ago. I was a young engineer back then and he became a mentor to me. But he was not only a mentor and a colleague, he was also a friend. His help and advice during several critical points in my life were invaluable. I am very thankful for having known Mario. I will miss him. My thoughts are with his family.

    Adios Mario!

    Paulo Uribe

  18. Lamento la perdida de Mario, un técnico y científco de primer categoría. De todas maneras, al igual que todos los radioaficionados, nunca muere aquel que creyo en el futuro y estoy seguro que Mario sigue vivo en el éter haciendo su llamada CQ a la cual respoderemos en algún momento.

    Mario, mantenete QAP en tu frecuencia que seguramente encontraras a los viejos amigos esperándote para reencontrarse y establecer nuevamente aquellos QSO de entonces.

    Hasta pronto Mario y muchos DX´s en ese nuevo mundo donde estas ahora.

    Rubén – lu6dyd

  19. Dear Mario,

    I will always remember the day I met you. It was in June 1997 and I had an interview with you. You hired me as your Administrative Assistant and would always correct people when they referred to me as your “secretary.” In your deep, loud voice you would say, “Sandy is NOT a secretary. She is my Administrative Assistant!” I always thought that was funny and instantly loved you and your tough exterior. Right off the bat I called you, “Mario.” It took me a while to realize that everyone called you “Dr. Acuna.” I suppose at that time I really didn’t know how much respect you carried at NASA. You were always “Mario” to me – the man who taught me that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and to not WORRY so much about pleasing everyone all the time. If it wasn’t for you, I would not have been able to travel to London. How you trusted me to deliver one of your magnetometers is beyond me. I did it though, and I traveled alone for the first time out of this country as an adult. I couldn’t believe that you did that for me. I look back at it now and wish that I had stayed with you at NASA. I thought it would be cool to go and work for an Internet start-up. Man, was I wrong.

    You were always so kind and sweet to me and I looked up to you like a daughter does to their father. A few months after I started working as your “ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT,” you introduced your son to me. You kind of pushed him in my office and said, “Sandy, here is my son.” Then you took off. I didn’t understand your intentions and I think I was too wrapped up in my AOL IM conversation to really pay attention to anyone at that moment. Andy kept showing up at my office and eventually asked me out to lunch. Who knew that we would one day marry and have two beautiful children. Mario, I love you and feel so angry that you are not with us any longer. You had an incredible impact on my son, Nathan. He told me just the other day that he loves his “solar system” bed comforter and he wants to be a scientist just like you. I see you in him and I see you in my daughter – the very tough and independent child that she is. I am grateful to have met you so many years ago. You brought me into your loving and strong family. I have so many memories of you – the beautiful rehearsal dinner you threw for me (complete with a Bolivian band), the look on your face on my wedding day, the endless tickles you gave Nathan and Kate flipping them up so high into the air as they laughed so hard. I will always love you and promise to keep your spirit alive within my family.

    Your daughter-in-law,


  20. To the Acuna family:

    I first became acquainted with Mario when we were both doctoral students of Prof. Y. C. Whang at Catholic University (and ultimately Prof. Whang’s first two PhDs out of the Space Science Dept.) I quickly found out that Mario also worked at GSFC. From time to time I dropped by the office Mario shared in the Sounding Rocket group to discuss our homework assignments and other interests. Eventually he confided in me that he was not happy where he was working, so I told my superior, Norman Ness, about Mario and his abilities with magnetometers. Norman was impressed, and I do not believe it was very long before he made a place for Mario in our laboratory, at first working under Keith Ogilvie. As soon as was possible, however, arrangements were made for Mario to start building the magnetometers for the space mission magnetic field inverstigations that Norman headed up as Principal Investigator. That was one of the best things to ever happen in our lab. As all know, Mario went on to have a fantastic career.
    Among the best memories I have of Mario was his willingness to help others when he had the time, whether it was to help fix an ailing TV or repair a car. Another fond memory is of the wonderful dinner parties Mario and Barbara hosted at their house.
    I know Mario will be missed by many, but of course most of all his tragic loss will be felt by his family. I lost my loving wife to cancer in September 2007 after a courageous battle. I truly mean it when I tell you that I share your pain.

    Ken Behannon

  21. I also worked with Mario on several projects at NASA Goddard & liked him and his great smile! ex LU9HBG & I talked through my 22 yrs there of many things, but mostly ham radio & work of course. His hands have touched most if not all spacecraft of Goddards & other NASA centers spacecraft! Surely a piece of him will be in outer space for ever!
    I have followed some of his family activities through the years via the Bowie Blade.
    My trips to next door bld 2 will now be lonesome!
    Dick in Bowie W1DGA

  22. Dear Aunt Bea, James, Andrew, Marta, & Daniel,

    As I sit here and read the condolences from Uncle Mario’s colleagues I marvel at the amount of people and lives he has touched both professionally and personally.
    As a child, he was such an enormous part of my life- whether it be through his need to document our childhood with his beautiful photos (that I will always cherish) that he was always out in the neighborhood snapping, or his thumb removal trick, his endless supply of tickles, sharing a birthday celebration every couple of years, or seeing him in my science book in 5th grade and feeling bewildered by how he had gotten in there!
    I will always remember his kind ways, his generosity, his deep fluid voice, and his smile. He has been like a father to me and my siblings, since the passing of our own, over 20 years ago. Now, I have my own family and Uncle Mario has touched their lives, in many of the same ways, that he touched mine.
    We feel both privileged and blessed to have know such a great man.
    Uncle Mario- husband, father, abuelo, colleague, and friend will remain alive in the memories of those who loved, respected, and treasured him.
    We offer our sincere condolences and mourn with you at this difficult time.
    With love,
    Aimee, Mark, Devin, Liam, & Aidan

  23. A la familia de Mario el mas sentido pesame de todos los peruanos que lo conocimos.
    Queda en nosotros un excelente ejemplo de ser humano y cientifico y por eso siempre estara con nosotros
    Nos vemos mas luego Mario

  24. I still cant believe that Mario is gone, I knew what he was fighting and up against, but never thought he would be gone so soon. I am one of the many who had the opportunity to work a little with him, and like most will tell you, he was a great man. Great not just in science and what he did for NASA in the world of magnetometers, of all the awards he got, but he was magnificent as a man, very warm and friendly and encouraging and supportive, he made you feel like as if you were his special “buddy”! Of course he was strong like a mighty mountain, never afraid to defend what he thought right.

    I am an electronics engineer, he believed I was a little good at it, so he would meet me at times in the hallways, and with his big usual smile and grinning face, come up with one or another brain puzzling / tormenting questions to test me. I will miss you Mario, for there has no one been like you in my 22 years at NASA who asked me questions like that, one sample follows. It took me a day or two to come up with a mathematical answer, he was not satisfied, but he told me I was close. I am going to share that question with you, but not provide the answer here, when you think of the answer, you will then think of how extraordinary Mario was, how he searched for the true meaning and understanding of science.

    So, here is the question which is based on what is taught in basic course in electrical engineering or the fundamentals of Electricity in physics:
    The energy stored on a capacitor, C charged to voltage V is E1 = ½ * C * V * V

    Now I get another capacitor of equal value C with zero charge and connect it in parallel to the first capacitor which had an initial voltage of V. As is well known, the total capacitor is now 2*C, and the voltage across this parallel combination is half or V/2.

    Now if you apply the equation for energy across the 2 capacitors in parallel, you get,
    Energy = ½ * (total capacitance) * (square of voltage across the capacitor combination),
    And is given as,
    E2 = ½ * (2*C) * ( V/2 * V/2) = ¼ * C * V * V

    If you compare with E1, you see that E2 is half of E1, so the question is, where did half the energy disappear assuming zero resistance or loss less circuit?

    Now if it takes you a few days and still you cant find the answer, an answer that can be explained conceptually in simple words without the use of sophisticated maths or calculus, then you may email me at or , and I will share the answer that Mario gave, and then you will know why he was so very good at what he did.

    Mario, you are not dead, for me you are still there and will be as long as I live, you were a source of strength and will still be.

    To Mario’s family, we all know this is the ultimate destiny of human life, we humans are helpless. I pray to God, to give you the strength in this moment of grief.

  25. To The Family:

    I am so sorry to hear that your Super Mario passed away. It is always a difficult time. Seems like he has a wonderful family. May God be with you all during this trying time and for the days ahead to give you the grace. I am so very sorry.





  27. We have, with great sorrow, received the sad news of the passing of Dr.Mario Acuna. I, togehter with my ISAS colleagues, wish to express our sincere condolences on this sad occasion.

    ISAS had many collaboration with NASA since 1980’s. His support to those projects, especially Geotail and Nozomi, could not have been more constructive nor more friendly. His supportive attitude in the recent PDR of BepiColombo MMO is also unforgettable.

    Especially through he dedicated contribution to the Geotail mission he has established the bridge between NASA and ISAS, which still remains as one of the key assets of our institute. Geotail is one of the most productive heliophysics mission, but if it were without him, this would not have become true. We will miss him himself and the opportunities of working with him.

    Once again, please accept our heartfelt condolences and convey our deepest sympathy to his bereaved family and associates.

    Sincerely yours,

    Hajime INOUE
    Director, Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)

  28. Dear Acuna family

    I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Mario Acuna. It was more than 20 years ago that I first met him at a NASA – ISAS meeting of the GEOTAIL project. At that time, Mario was the ISTP/GGS Project Scientist, and I was the GEOTAIL Project Scientist on the Japanese side. Since then, he has been my most trustful partner to find positive solutions against various problems, especially, due to cultural differences between America and Japan. Since the launch in 1992, GEOTAIL has long been working well, including the Mario’s magnetometer. GEOTAIL is regarded as one of the most productive heliophysics mission, but if it were without him, this would not have become true.

    Mario was a brilliant scientist and engineer, but more importantly, a human with generous and warm-hearted personality. We, Japanese space plasma community, have learned much from him through his invaluable advice, not only to GEOTAIL but also to the following missions, Nozomi and BepiColombo/MMO. We will miss him and the opportunity of working with him. Please accept our heartfelt condolences and convey our deepest sympathy.

    Sincerely yours,

    Toshifumi Mukai
    On behalf of the GEOTAIL team in Japan

  29. Dear Acuna Family:
    Our deepest sympathy goes out to you all during this difficult time. I share your grief and sense of deep loss. Mario has been a role model for many students and to many of the colleagues and friends from Latin-America. I had the opportunity of working with Mario and to collaborate with him in the organization of science conferences in Latin America. He is one of the founding fathers of the COLAGE, a series of science and education conferences held in many Latin American countries every three years. He helped organize ALAGE (Spanish acronym for the Latin American Association for Space Geophysics), a member organization of the AGU. He was indeed an extraordinary man. All of us that share with him a weekly dose of Spanish conversation and jokes loved him and will miss him dearly both professionally and as a friend.

    Once again, please accept our heartfelt condolences and convey our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

    I know in the right time, I will meet Mario again. We will all meet Mario again and he’ll make us laugh in tears again.

    Hasta pronto mi querido amigo,

    Adolfo F. Viñas

  30. Dear Acuna family,

    I worked at Goddard at various times from the late sixties to the recent past. Whenever I saw Mario, it brightened up my day. He really was a cheerful spirit that one knew as a positive force for humanity, science and valuing life to the fullest.

    Even though I did not know him, as well as I would have liked, I felt and still feel uplifted from knowing him.

    God bless you all, and may his joyful spirit give you peace,

    Ken Schatten

  31. Dear Acuna family,

    I first met Mario while I was a graduate student working on the ISEE mission at the University of Maryland – just a stone’s throw
    (or traffic jam) from Goddard Space Flight Center. As soon as Mario would walk into a room, or join a discussion, the other scientists and engineers would stop and pay close attention. He was held in the deepest respect and regard by all of us who worked with him on so many missions, but he also brought a personal enthusiasm that marks the true explorer.

    Another bright star has been added to God’s firmament. God bless you all,

    Toni Galvin

  32. To the Acuna family

    I was shocked and deeply saddened by such premature passing of our colleague and friend, Dr. Mario Acuna. I had known Mario for decades as a leading figure in space science but it was in the GEOTAIL satellite program where our paths crossed. In this international program between ISAS (Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Japan) and NASA, Mario played a key role by sharing his experience and promoting the team spirit. His advice and support were invaluable when difficult decisions had to be made. I wish we could work together much longer into the future.

    I thank you so much, Mario.


  33. Dear Acuna family:

    My deepest sympathy goes out to the entire family during this most difficult time. Know that Mario is in a much better place, no pain, no suffering. He looks down upon you and smiles as he reflects on his very own life and in particular his beautiful family who he will always be with. Know that Mario will be with you everyday, every step of the way. May God bless you and the good spirit of Mario be with you all the days of this life until you meet with him again in heaven

  34. Mario,

    I have so many things I would like to say. You are such a great man and I know you are not gone, yet are in another place, so I will not refer to you in the past tense. After reading through these posts, I felt like I learned so much about you from a professional sense. You were so accomplished and so respected, that it would take volumes to describe your achievements and all the accolades you earned. Knowing you, I am quite sure you would say it is nothing and quickly move on. It is just that, right there, that describes you best. Although you inspired many, taught even more, you were humble and discreet, even smooth! Yes a smooth rocket scientist does exist 🙂

    Your achievements professionally, however, paled to that which you would never admit. You are a great man. You left a mark on me that time will never fade, that grows even stronger ever day. You taught me that it is not what we have, but what we can do for others. I have never met such a giving, selfless person in my life. While you juggled complex international insterstellar projects, you helped fix a toilet.

    Sometimes I bet (with a chuckle) you would put a launch on hold just to get that guys computer bug worked out or to help your neighbor in their time of need as they tried to work out the best way to troubleshoot a homeowner problem.

    You will always be dear in my heart will always make me take the day head on and to ask myself, “how can I contribute ?”.

    Amidst the tears, I find myself with a smile that tries to creep out as I think about the time you and I were just two guys behind Assateague Isalnd catching a truckload of fish as they were on a run. You, with a slightly kiltered baseball hat on backwards, looked like a schoolboy as you reeled in the 15 fish (SERIOUSLY) and I was on your heels reeling in number 6. The pinnacle that day was afterwards when another fisherman (as amazed as us at how prolific the life aquatic was) that day offered you a beer and threw it over from his boat. Picture that, one of NASA’s brightest drinking one of Annheiser’s worst (Miller Lite), looking down on the water like: yeah, I’m bad!

    So, I choose not to focus on the passing, but on the future. You are here with me, with all of us, and that is something I will cherish for every moment I am lucky to have. Oh yeah, by the way, thank you for letting me marry your daughter, I owe you one!

    With love always,


  35. To the Acuna family and his many friends and colleagues:

    Having gone through the trauma of my baby sister’s dying of cancer in Baltimore last April, I well understand the pain those close to him must feel from his death. I felt not only grief from the loss but frustration and anger that we are not better able to cure such diseases.

    I did not know Mario as well as many who worked closely with him, but always regarded him as one of those on whom I would depend for the best advice and direction from his deep understanding of his own discipline. He will be sorely missed.

  36. To the Acuna family and Mario’s many friends,

    The entirety of my young career as a scientist has been influenced by Mario. I appreciate the time I got to spend working and talking with him. His influence within the science community and the greater world is widespread and powerful. I miss him but I hope to honor his legacy by trying to be a good person and scientist.

    Jared Espley

  37. Dear Family of Mario Acuna,

    It is a sad news for me to hear about Marios passing. Please take my condolation. It is good to hear that he finally had peacefull last hours within the comfort of his devoted family.

    For many years we worked together in many space project like ISEE, SOHO and others. He was a very smart, active scientist whom we respected because of his great knowledge and balanced judgement in the field. We all learned to like him because of his humorous and help-full way of dealing with his colleagues from all over the world. There was no spacecraft where he did not find a mass allowance and a corner to include one of his great field measuring devices.

    Since I am retired already more than 10 years, I did not see him for several years and did not know of his disease. Thus I was very surprised to hear the sad news.
    He is one of the few people I will never forget.

    Please take my deep condolence

    Sincerely Yours

    Dieter Hovestadt

  38. Queridos miembros de la Familia Acuña:

    Prefiero escribirles en español porque sé que podré ser mas sincero. Lamento profundamente la pérdida de Mario, y quiero enviarles mi más sentido pésame en estos momentos de dolor y despedida.

    Mário fue siempre una especie de Faro para quienes estudiaban física en Argentina y deseaban continuar una carrera en ciencias espaciales. Lo conozco desde mis tiempos de estudiante en Buenos Aires, en los lejanos años 80. Tuve el privilegio de compartir, ahora como instructor, una “escuela” para estudiantes avanzados en septiembre de 2006 en Buenos Aires. Siempre tan sencillo y al mismo tiempo, tan profundo en sus explicaciones científicas. Siempre tan humilde en su forma de ser. El no era una “estrella” y sin embargo siempre brillaba.

    Les agradezco el espacio que abrieron para poder expresar nuestros pensamientos. Les dejo este reconocimiento, con profundo dolor y cariño,


  39. In 1967 I was a “fresh-out” hire into the sounding rocket division at Godard Space Flight Center. My assignment was to invent a new magnetometer to replace the overly expensive (over $4000) magnetometers they were buying in support of nearly 80 rocket flights per year. I experimented with several technologies and settled on a fluxgate as the best technology. Trained as a physicist, the electronics design was difficult for me.

    One day, I was informed that I would have the help of a support contractor from Argentina, Mario Acuna. Having lived around the world as the son of an Air Force pilot, I welcomed this foreigner’s help. Mario looked at what I had been doing. The heart of the device was a “ring core” that I was having a company locally fabricate for $100 each. Mario looked at the specs and said, “I know a catalogue where we can buy devices like these for 50 cents.”

    I soon had to recognize that Mario was much more educated than I in everything. He took the very complex circuit design I had developed and began to improve the performance. It was like he was throwing the parts over his shoulder as he simplified and improved my design. While we worked together, Mario was clearly in the lead. The magnetometer became smaller and simpler. We jointly patented the simple magnetometer — and transferred the technology to airport metal detector companies. While Mario concentrated on the electrical circuits with a special genius, I decided to model the characteristics in a program called APL. Soon, I could model the effects of changes in, for example, driving currents and windings, and Mario implemented and tested these improvements. We published the model in a joint publication in IEE Transactions — we were both about 25 years old.

    We then contracted with a small company in Virginia and manufactured the magnetometers in quantities of 100 for $100 each. The savings were so huge that we were awarded the largest patent related monetary award in Goddard’s history — $4,000 when our annual salaries were only about $8,000. We were the closest of friends. Mario bought a house near mine and we carpooled together.

    Bowie, where we lived, had a “heavy trash” day once a week. When one of us needed a new washing machine or dishwasher, we cruised until we found enough discarded appliances to build a new one. Mario was always astounded at what American’s so readily discarded. We also drank wine together — Mario always had some deal — we once bought many cases of nearly spoiled Greek wine for ten cents per bottle.

    While Mario was always the bigger mind, especially in engineering, I was the pathfinder, perhaps because I am naturally bold and born in this country. I applied into the physics PhD program at Catholic University and Mario soon followed in applied physics. We both finished the coursework in about three years and passed the comprehensive exams. Now, had to write theses!

    I wanted to find a way to write our theses while keeping our NASA jobs (Mario converted to civil service in the “AJAX” conversion in about 1968). I went to find a job in “Code 600” (Godard’s science directorate). As I left an interview for a job measuring solar cosmic rays, I noticed a job in another part of 600 building space magnetometers. I opened the glass case and removed the ad and took it to Mario. When he read it he began shaking visibly — his excitement went through his entire body.

    He applied for the job to learn that it was “wired” for an incumbent. When the Division head, Norm Ness, met Mario and saw the high precision (two-axis) magnetometer that was so tiny and durable (our magnetometers worked after rockets with failed parachutes slammed into the earth) he re-advertised the job and hired Mario.

    When Mario arrived, Pioneer 10 was 9 months from launch. Ness asked Mario how long to build a space qualified magnetometer to go on the mission. Mario said an unbelievable “one month’ if he could bring his gifted tech, Everett Worley from the sounding rocket division. Ness arranged for the transfer and Mario’s magnetometer flew on the first satellite to ever leave the solar system.

    The magnetometer community had always been hostile. No one, however, could compete with Mario’s simple, precise and elegant magnetometer evolved from the sounding rocket days. Mario recounted going to one of his most vicious adversaries, putting a fifth of Scotch whisky on the table and saying, “Why can’t we just work together?” This was Mario! They collaborated ever after.

    I believe that Mario had a magnetometer on every planetary mission thereafter. One night, watching a NOVA program about Mario, I thought — “there he is — great scientist and engineer and just as straightforward and open as if we were having a glass of wine together.”

    Mario and I drifted apart as I moved to Headquarters and then moved to Colorado. I would have dinner with him occasionally. About six months ago, when I heard he was ill, we had dinner at the Greenbelt Marriott. Mario, as he did when we visited Argentina together ordered steak, “As rare as you can legally serve it.” We had, of course, a good red wine. During our dinner, he was the same as when we first met 40 years earlier. To my satisfaction, he said that I remained his closest friend outside Argentina. Deep bonds and threads of mutual respect are life long.

    I don’t like it when people write about others who have died in maudlin terms. It would be impossible for me to do that about Mario (or anyone else). The truth is that Mario was a model for us all in aspects far beyond his accomplishments — a great example of what humans can be — generous, giving, and inspiring to anyone lucky enough to be touched by him. I am so grateful to have him as my friend.

    I love you Mario. Thank you, for being such a model of both brilliance and giving, in my (and my children’s) life.

  40. To the Acuna family,

    My thoughts and my Prayers go out to the family. Mario was loved my all that he came in contact with. I knew him from the Bldg 2 days at GSFC. Always a smile on his face. Dedicated to his work and most of all to his family.

    Remember he is just a step away and all his memories live on. Remember him everyday, look at his pictures and remember all the fun and good times. This keeps him alive in our hearts and mind. I was told this not to long ago when my sister past on 9/12/08 and it really helps.

    We loved you Mario. You were a great man and a joy to know.

  41. When I first met Mario, I was a very lost soul. I was still very much a teen and one shattered by our Mom’s death and my Dad’s subsequent re-marriage and relocation from Annapolis to Charlotte.

    Brother Charlie and Frani had so kindly (and lovingly) taken me in as a boarder while they were just making a new family of their own.

    I had hardly paid attention to Charlie’s glee in a developing relationship with a “new friend from work”. And then one day, Charlie said, “Mario’s coming by the house!”

    “So what ?”, might then have been my inward or outward reaction. I was really testing the depths of depression !

    However, what I have NEVER forgotten is that Mario, at my first meeting, wanted to know what was “goin’ on” with me. At then end and more importantly, he just wanted to make sure that I knew he was “there”.

    Whaaaat ? I was both astonished and suspicious. Just meeting him had generated some mirth in me. I know I would have asked Charlie, “Is this guy…as smart as you say….PLUS meaning of all that he says ? Is he really this wonderful a guy ? ”

    Charlie had said, “He’s a gem, a “keeper”, a one-of-a-kind”.

    Oh, there was lots more to it with Mario “being there” ! At dear Barbara’s, his childrens’ and his Phd’s expense, Mario lovingly welcomed and helped me all-too-often with the repairs of my guitars and sound amplifiers and the quirks of the two hand-me-down foreign cars I’d owned. He was doing this rather than changing diapers and/or pounding out his thesis and, please know, he grumbled a bit about those lost opportunities !

    I am just so grateful to have known Mario, to have know just a piece of his heart. His “being there” helped me make the positive choices in many major “fight or flee” decisions I’d make.

    Fast forward: guess who took better photos at our wedding than the hired photographer ? And without us asking ?

    Take comfort: Mario’s spirit reigns !

    With love, Mark Pellerin

  42. To the Acuna family,

    I had the pleasure and honor to know Mario for many decades at Goddard. In 1977, my wife Marilyn and I wanted to get a formal photograph of our two-year old son. Knowing of Mario’s interest and capability in photography, I discussed the matter with him and he immediately volunteered to photograph our son and we ended up with a professional-quality product. Thus he was not only an expert at photography, but he could capture the attention of a challenging two-year old.

    With sympathy,

    Bob Benson

  43. Dear Acuna Family,
    I am truly sorry to hear about Mario’s passing. Sandy has always spoken so fondly of him with the greatest love and respect. Your family has been and will continue to be in our prayers.
    With deepest sympathy,
    The Hu Family

  44. I played soccer with Mario in the newly-formed Goddard soccer league in the early 1970s — and would meet & greet him many times at GSFC since then. I followed his great career over the years; knowing how highly he was esteemed by everyone, I’m sorry I never had the opportunity to work with Mario.

    My brother-in-law also died of multiple myeloma, 16 years ago. I knew progress was being made in treating the disease– I’m just sorry it wasn’t enough for Mario.

    With prayers and deepest sympathy to all the family,
    Peter Kenny

  45. Dear Acuna family,

    This article apperaed today in La Nacion, one of the main Argentine newspapers:

    Just a small recognition to a great man and good friend.


    Marcos Machado

  46. Quisiera transmitirles a Uds., parte de mi familia, lo que significaba Mario para nosotros. Además de ser “el tío Mario”, aquel hombre sonriente que siempre, siempre estuvo y estará junto a sus sobrinos argentinos. Para dar un consejo, para ayudar, para enseñarnos que el viaje a las estrellas es posible!! Siempre me enorgulleció ser sobrina de él, y al ser de las más grandes (junto con Felicitas) haber tenido la dicha de disfrutar mucho de su persona.
    Veo en sus hijos, mis primos, que dejó un gran legado, ser hombres de bien, y de eso, tienen que estar orgullosos.
    Como dice Daniel, “hasta pronto Mario”.
    A la tía Bárbara, Jaime, Andres, Marta, Daniel y toda esa gran familia que tenemos allá, reciban una gran abrazo de
    Adriana y familia (Adolfo, Constanza e Ignacio)

  47. Caros familiares

    Quiero expresar mis sentimientos de pesar por el desaparecimiento de Mario y toda solidariedad en este momento tan dificil.

    Pierre Kaufmann

  48. I first met Mario in the 1970s when a friend introduced us and was impressed at the time with his wonderful personality.

    It was years later that our paths crossed again (1995-1997) when I worked with Mario in connection with the magnetometer instrument on the ACE mission. He had a way to make you feel important and always had time to answer your concerns or questions.

    He was a great scientist and a wonderful man. My condolences to his family.

  49. A la familia Acuña

    Difícil expresar con palabras lo que sentimos.
    Pero queremos decirles que han sido ustedes muy afortunadosal haber tenido a ese gran hombre que fue Mario como esposo, como padre. Al haber podido
    gozar cotidianamente de sus charlas, de su sabiduría, de sus cuitas, de su caracter afable y conversador.

    Será difícil ahora ir a los Congresos sin la esperanza de reencontrar a Mario. Sera difícil aceptar que ya no esta ahí para responder un email en que se le pide un consejo, una idea, en cuya respuesta se esperan palabras de aliento.

    La vida y la obra de Mario estarán con nosotros para siempre, haremos lo posible para que su ejemplo sea útil tambien para las generaciones venideras.

    Un gran abrazo solidario

    Blanca Mendoza
    Pepe Valdés

  50. My heart goes out to the Acuña family and all those who had the joy of knowing Mario and being touched by his life. He was loved and admired by all in our family, where his warmth, humor, and genuine interest in so many things always made conversations with Mario a highlight of summer picnics and other gatherings.

    I will miss Mario’s generosity and the wonderful Argentinian influence he brought to our extended family, though that legacy obviously lives on. Our memories of him will always be an inspiration. With deepest sympathy,

    Ken Hall

  51. Mario and I started at Goddard at about the same time in the ‘60s and I have known him in several capacities since then –soccer player, fellow scientist, Volvo owner, friend, and lunch companion.
    I believe I first met Mario on the Goddard soccer field. We were both members of the Astros and Mario was our stalwart defensive player. He was a big guy, so not as fast as some, but nobody got past Mario. He had a big booming right-footed kick that often saved the day as he cleared the ball up field. I used to tell him, if he could only kick as well with his left foot, he could have been a great player, but for some reason he was totally incapable of kicking with his left foot.
    In the 70’s, we went on a memorable trip to Argentina as part of a team organized by Charlie Pellerin to assess the possibilities for NASA’s involvement in an Argentinean solar satellite. This was just after the Falkland’s war but I never sensed any animosity between us even though our native countries had been fighting one another. The inflation rate was very high when we were there with prices increasing every day but we had a great time and things were very cheap in dollars. We met with the Argentinean president and came up with a plan that ultimately led to the ill-fated Satélite de Aplicaciones Científicas B or SAC-B. (SAC-A was an earlier test satellite launched from the Shuttle with Mario Acuna as the mission scientist.) SAC-B was launched in 1996 on a Pegasus rocket but unfortunately, it failed to separate from the third stage and the solar panels could not be pointed at the Sun. The batteries discharged in less than 24 hours and the instruments were never turned on. This was a great blow to all of us since we had put so much work into preparing the instruments, but it didn’t stop Mario. He continued to support the Argentinean space program leading to the successful SAC-C mission a few years later in 2000, and now SAC-D.
    I have not worked directly with Mario since the SAC-B disaster but we continued to compare notes and occasionally have lunch together. He always had an interesting perspective on the political scene, both national and local. He constantly railed at the Goddard and NASA HQ managers and had no patience for the increasing bureaucracy. I used to tell him that he was such a pessimist most of the time but he wouldn’t have any of that claiming that he was always a realist. And I think he was. I always had great respect for him and will miss the friendly and insightful discussions I continued to have with him, usually in the Goddard cafeteria, but sometimes in his incredible office with 40 years of accumulated stuff piled high around his desk.
    Of Mario’s family, I knew only James from a brief summer studentship that he spent with my group at Goddard, I think in the 1980’s. But he didn’t remember me when I introduced myself to him at the funeral and I couldn’t identify him after all those years, so I guess it wasn’t a too memorable experience for either of us. I can only extend my deepest sympathies to him and the rest of the family for the premature loss of a really great guy.

  52. To Acuna family

    I met Mario for the first time in January, 1968, in a Space Physics School that was held in Bariloche.

    Since then we have met many times, mostly during the ALAGE conferences, when we had the opportunity to talk a lot about science, common friends, families and to remember good moments spent at that unforgettable School.

    Mario will always be remembered as brilliant mind, a dearest friend, and sweet person, regardless his powerful voice and figure.

    I really regret his absence. He has left an enormous void in the heart of all his many friends, colleagues, students, and relatives.

    A light has extinguished on Earth, but a new star will be shinning for ever in heaven.

    My condolences to his wife, children and grand children. My prayers will be with you.

    Aracy Mendes da Costa

  53. To the whole family of Mario Acuna,
    We at the International Space Science Institute learnt of the sudden passing of Mario. On behalf of the whole institute we would like to convey our condolences to you all. Mario played a key role in the exploration of the Solar System and in the determination of the magnetic properties of planets and their satellites. His magnetometers visited all eight planets, the Moon and asteroid Eros. At ISSI he visited us several times in 2000 and 2001. He was a key contributor to the Workshop organized in 2001 on “Mars’ Magnetism and its Interaction with the Solar Wind”. Together with Daniel Winterhalter and Alexander Zakharov he was the editor of the book published by ISSI. This workshop has been a landmark in our understanding of the evolution of the red planet.

    Mario was a great scientist. He was a great space scientist and a deeply appreciated human being. His colleagues all around the world will miss him very much. His memory will be with us for a very long time as he contributed so much to knowledge and discovery. It has been agreed to dedicate the forthcoming ISSI book on Planetary Magnetism to Mario in recognition of his enormous contributions to space science and the understanding of the physics of the Solar System.

    Thank you Mario for what you did. We will never forget you.
    A. Balogh, R.M. Bonnet, J. Geiss, R. von Steiger

  54. Dear Acuna family and friends,

    Like many others, long before I met him, I knew of Mario’s incredible scientific and engineering reputation for his work with magnetometers and the data they returned. But, it was in the mid- to late 1980’s, when I was at the Air Force Geophysics Laboratory and the magnetometer PI on the Combined Release and Radiation Effects Satellite (CRRES) satellite, that I first recall interacting with this legend. Mario was generous with advice and sharing his experiences, especially when I used the Goddard magnetic test facility for calibrating the CRRES magnetometer. I recall working with him in the coil facility, long before its recent refurbishment, and his telling me that I should use the smaller of the two systems because it was more accurate and there were snakes infesting the feedback controller on the larger system. Mario may have saved my life, although I also recall dodging the laser devise he was using for alignments.

    In recent years, in my work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Environment Center, Mario continued to answer my questions and give me advice on the nation’s GOES satellite magnetometers. Others have noted how many magnetometers Mario has flown, but it should be recognized that his influence extended beyond the missions on which he was the principal investigator.

    I will sorely miss the opportunity to hear Mario’s friendly voice offering first-class dependable advice. You could always count on hearing the truth from Mario.

    Please accept my sincere sympathy for your loss.

    Howard Singer, Chief Scientist
    NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center

  55. To the Acuña family

    It was with great grief that we received the notice of decease of Dr. Mario Acuña.

    Mario was a great scientist and a great person. In our COLAGE (Conferencia Latinoamericana de Geofísica Espacial) meetings it was common to see him surrounded by the graduate and undergraduate students eager to learn from his vast experience and knowledge and amazed with the fact that such a great scientist was so accessible to all of them.

    During our last COLAGE meeting that occurred in July 2007 in Merida, Mexico, Mario was appointed as the Exterior Secretary of ALAGE (Asociación Latinoamericana de Geofísica Espacial) and we started to work closer since them. It was a shock to me when, only a few months later, I received a message from him with the notice that he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Since them all we could do was to hope and pray for his recover.

    Mario will always live in his vast and very significant scientific production and in the minds and hearts of all of us who had the privilege to know him.

    Inez Staciarini Batista
    President of ALAGE (Latin American Association for Space Geophysics)

  56. Dear Barbara, Marta, Daniel, Andrew and Jamie,

    What do you say during times like this? Where do you begin? Where does time go?
    The Smiths first met the Acunas around 1975 on Claxton Place, better known as “the court”. Our families became fast friends and neighbors.
    There are so many memories of block parties, poker nights, our dinner group, Christmas and New Years eve parties, building additions on our houses, kids playing in the court, starting new school years together, birthday parties, first communions,confirmations, meeting in Ocean City and going to the board walk, going to the emergency room, proms, graduations. There is no end to the many ways our lives have been intertwined.
    When we lost our husband and dad in 1985, Mario took on the responsibility of keeping things fixed and working at our house. (furnaces, air conditioners, lawn mowers, faucets, toilets, dish washers, garbage disposals, hot water tanks, porch swings, cars, just to name a few). He helped with income taxes and insurance problems. I can’t remember a problem he couldn’t solve.
    He built not only my first but also my second computer and then came over to fix every problem I had with them. (The problem was usually a result of my lack of knowledge about how to use a computer).
    The Acunas were always there for us and you grew to be like family.
    The years flew by and by the 1990s, all the kids were grown and gone. Things were quiet then on Claxton Place.
    Next came college graduations, weddings and grand babies.
    Mario practiced explaining things to Devin, the first grandchild in our families. I can remember visiting at the Robinhood house and Molly, the family cocker spaniel was there. Molly was old and going blind and Devin, at age 3, wanted to play with her. Mario explained to Devin about being blind and why Molly couldn’t play. He then asked Devin if she was blind and Devin replied that she was not blind but she was a ” brunette”. We had a good laugh.
    A year ago, our Bowie neighbors gathered at the Acuna house in Ocean Pines for dinner. Mario cooked clams in his special sauce. That would be the last time we would all be together with Mario. He sat the camera and took a picture of us together.
    In October, Mario’s sisters came to visit and I was invited to come to dinner while they were at the house in Ocean Pines. Mario really enjoyed the time he spent with his sisters. He had to do lots of translating during dinner since Barbara and I could not keep up with the conversation but we laughed and had an enjoyable time.
    Mario was a friend and helper to everyone. He always found time for you and your problems, no matter how many problems he may have had of his own. He never complained.
    I don’t know how we would have made it through all the years without him. I look back now and realize that our families did not end up on Claxton Place by accident. I know it was God’s plan that our families moved there because God knew how many of us needed a good friend and “fixer” and Mario was there for us all.
    He was an amazing and humble man. He touched so many lives in so many ways. He will truly be missed and always be loved and remembered by the Smith family.
    I grieve with you and I know God comforts all those who mourn.
    Love, Karen

  57. My name is %name&% and first off I wish to say outstanding blog.
    If you don’t mind, I just have one quick question. What do you do to clear your head and find your center of focus before you sit down to write? Lately I just can’t get my head clear so that I’m able to concentrate on my ideas. I truly do like writing, but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 mins are lost simply just trying to figure out how to start. Any ideas or suggestions?

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: