About this Blog

We set up this blog to keep everyone informed on dad’s fight against multiple myeloma and to act as a resource for news and information about the disease and it’s treatment. We hope it will also serve as a journal, an insight, and an inspiration to the father that has given us everything he ever had.

Responses

  1. I read all the posts, and I want to thank you all for creating the blog. It gave us all the information and insights about Mario’s newly diagnosed MM. John and I had so many questions we wanted to ask Andy and Sandy, but with the the blog we don’t have to anymore. I want to say The Acuna family is an excellent example of how close and supportive a family should be, and I am proud to be a part of it.

  2. Hey everyone! I’m glad Mario was feeling better this week. Doesn’t surprise me at all that he made it to a Goddard meeting. Can’t wait to see everyone this weekend. xoxo, Christy

  3. Mario, nos conocimos hace ya 18 años cuando estabamos en los momentos previos al lanzamiento del LUSAT y tuve la suerte de llevarte al aeropuerto de Ezeiza cuando te volviste a los EEUU, donde charlamos mucho sobre magnetómetros. Desde estas tierras al sur del continente, mi familia y yo haremos votos por tu pronta recuperación.

    Un abrazo, Rubén (lu6dyd)

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. To the Acuna family, I would like to extend my deep regrets on the passing of your father and husband. I first met Mario, rather recently, at least compared to Charlie Pellerin (what a great bit of planetary science history, Charlie Pellerin provided in his comments). Mario was part of the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission. That means that we sat through many meetings together between 1996 – 2001 at APL.
    Mario was always a gentleman and acknowledged all members of the team with respect and interest in their work. I felt like I knew him well mostly because he was so cordial and colleagial.

  7. Dear Barbara and children,

    You probably do not know, Mario was a member of the Editorial Board of the mexican journal Geofísica Internacional.

    As a little tribute, we thought appropriate to leave testimony of his commitment with the Latinamerican community in the first page of the issue of the journal just after his passing away.

    If you are interested, you might see it at:

    http://www.geofisica.unam.mx/divulgacion/geofinternacional/iframes/anteriores/2009/02/mario.pdf

    I am sure in these days you are enduring life in the best manner possible.

    With kind regards,

    Pepe Valdés

  8. Dear Acuna Family

    You don’t know me, and I only had the privilege of meeting Mario over a couple of days, early this decade, when I was at Goddard researching a National Geographic story on auroras. I read the news of his passing yesterday, with sadness, while collecting some fresh information on auroras, magnetic fields and more.

    I’m moved to write this note to you because of the impression Mario made on me, even in just a few hours. He was a genial, informative and welcoming guide, both to the subject matter and to Goddard itself, taking time to show me different buildings and pieces of hardware. His sense of pride in the place and its work was like a gentle glow, and I remember him as a man of warmth, generosity and good spirit.

    I give some talks about auroras most winters in different parts of Scotland. My final ones this year were in mid-March, in the Highlands. At both of them, I showed a picture of Mario, not knowing that he had already passed away. Somehow, I hope that he would like the idea of his image being linked to the continuing communication of aspects of the science that so inspired him.

    Warm wishes to all of you,

    Kenny Taylor

  9. Andrew and Mario’s family. I enjoyed knowing Mario in Tucuman, at the University lab, and at the Chamical and Mar Chiquita Rocket launching bases of the Air Force and the Bariloche Space Physics Seminar in Argentina. My contacts with Mario in the last years have but sporadic. In 2011 a common friend from Sao Paulo Brazil told me about the sad news about Mario. He will remain in my memories. I wish all of Mario’s family the best of the best and “Live Long and Prosper!” Regards, Enrique Setaro / Miami, FL 3/29/2012

  10. Dan muy lindo tu recuerdo de Mario a 6 años de su muerte ,nosotros lo recordamos como hermano con igual cariño .


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