Mario Acuna was born in 1940 in Cordoba, Argentina and studied at the University of Tucuman earning a master's degree in electrical engineering in 1967. While working on his degree he also worked for the Ionospheric Research Center at the University of Tucumen and the Argentine National Space Research Commission. After graduating he joined Fairchild-Hiller Corporation and later became the Head of the Electronics Division. In 1969 Mario Arcuna began working with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and has served on many of the agency's key missions. He obtained his Ph.D. in Space Physics from the Catholic University of America in 1974.
Dr. Arcuna's specialty is in the area of the interactions of magnetic fields and plasmas and the instruments used to measure these interactions. The projects he has worked on include Mariner 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager 1 and 2, Ulysses, NEAR, the ESA's Giotti mission to Comet Halley, the Mars Global Surveyor, the Lunar Prospector, and MESSENGER. In the 1990's he served as the U.S. Project Scientist for the International Solar Terrestrial Physics Program. In addition, Mario Acuna was the Project Scientist on the Scientific Applications Satellite (SAC-A) a cooperative program with the Argentine National Commission on Space Activities(CONAE).
Among his awards are many of NASA's most prestigious awards including the Distinguished Service Medal (NASA's highest honor). Dr. Acuna is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, a founding member of the Latin American Association of Space Geophysicists(ALAGAE), and he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2007. Mario Acuna appeared in the 2003 PBS Nova episode Magnetic Storm.
Dr. Acuna passed away 5 March 2009. Read the Washington Post March 15th obituary, referenced 5 September 2009.