Dr. Mario Acuna

Mario H. Acuña was born in Córdoba, Argentina in 1940 where he received his undergraduate degree in humanities and economics from the University of Córdoba. He earned the MSEE degree from the University of Tucumán, Argentina in 1967 and the PhD. degree in Space Physics from The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC in 1974. From 1963 until 1967 he worked for the Electrical Engineering Department and Ionospheric Research Laboratory of the University of Tucumán as well as the Argentine National Space Research Commission (CNIE) as a Teaching and Research Associate. These activities included several cooperative sounding rockets programs with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center involving US and South American scientists as well as X ray research with high altitude balloons and meteorological satellite tracking stations. In 1967 he moved permanently to the US joining the Fairchild Hiller Corporation, Germantown, MD, to provide engineering and scientific support to NASA. In 1968 he became Head of the Electronic Systems Division (TSD). Since 1969 he has been associated with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD where his interests have centered around aerospace instrumentation and experimental investigations of the magnetic fields and plasmas in the solar system. As Principal Investigator, Co Investigator, Instrument Scientist and Project Scientist he has played a crucial part in many NASA missions, including Explorers 47 & 50, ISEE3, Mariner 10, Pioneer 11, Voyagers 1 & 2 (currently exploring the outer limits of the solar system), MAGSAT, Project Firewheel (Germany, Canada, US & UK), Viking (Sweden), AMPTE (Germany, US, UK), ISPM (NASA/ESA, currently ULYSSES), the GIOTTO mission to Comet Halley, and numerous other programs. In 1986 he was selected as Principal Investigator for the Mars Observer Magnetic Field Investigation later replaced by the Mars Global Surveyor Mission which arrived at Mars in September 1997 and is currently in orbit around the red planet making fundamental discoveries about Mars’ magnetism and thermal history. His research laboratory is recognized throughout the world as the leader in the development of instrumentation for the measurement of geophysical magnetic fields as well as plasmas, electromagnetic waves, gamma and X-rays. The laboratory has also supported since 1984 the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program of the US Air Force with the provision of advanced magnetic field instrumentation. In addition to these responsibilities Dr. Acuña served as US Project Scientist (and Science Manager) for the International Solar Terrestrial Physics Program, a $2.4B coordinated research effort by Japan, Europe, Russia and the US involving more than 1000 investigators and the launch of at least seven spacecraft in the middle 90's, and Project Scientist for the SAC cooperative program with Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Denmark. He was also the Team Leader for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Magnetic Field Experiment which landed on 433 Eros in February 2001, and the Lead Co-Investigator in the Magnetic Field and Electron Reflectometer experiment for the Lunar Prospector Mission. He is the Instrument Scientist for the ACE spacecraft Magnetic Field Experiment launched in August 1997 and now in orbit around the L1 libration point between the Earth and the Sun. He was selected by NASA as Co-Investigator for the Inner Magnetosphere Explorer Mission (IMEX) and is currently a Co-Investigator in the MESSENGER mission to Mercury (to be launched August 2004) and the twin-spacecraft STEREO mission recently launched to study space weather. Dr. Acuña has published over 160 refereed papers dealing with planetary exploration, magnetic fields and plasmas in the solar system, instrumentation for space research and other related subjects. He has been honored by NASA and other organizations with numerous prestigious awards including the Schneebaum Memorial Award for Engineering Excellence, the John C. Lindsay Award for Space Science, the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the Exceptional Service Medal, the Award of Merit and the Distinguished Service Medal (NASA’s highest honor) and a Presidential Rank Meritorious Award in recognition of his contributions to engineering, physics and space research. In 1991 he was honored by the Catholic University Alumni Association with the Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award, by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers with an Outstanding Technical Contribution Award and was appointed as a Senior Fellow by the Goddard Space Flight Center. In 1985 he was selected by the IEEE Magnetics Society as one of three Distinguished Lecturers to speak throughout the US and Europe on the subject of Space Magnetometry. Dr. Acuña is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Scientific Research Society of North America (Sigma Xi), the Committee for Space Research and International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, and is a founding member of the Latin American Association of Space Geophysics (ALAGE).

Broadcast 622 (Special Edition)

Dr. Mario Acuna was the guest for this Friday morning Space Show program. We began our discussion by talking about radiation to Mars and on the surface of Mars. This was an in-depth discussion. We eventually broadened the discussion to cosmic rays, solar events throughout the planetary system, shielding, and related topics. We then focused on magnetic fields and discussed them regarding Mars, Earth, Venus, many of the moons in our system, newly discovered planets, all the planets in our system, and our technology to learn about planetary magnetic fields.

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