In Memoriam: Dr. Michael Wargo

wargoIt is with heavy hearts that the planetary science community, and the lunar science community in particular, mourn the passing of a friend and colleague, Mike Wargo. Wargo passed away unexpectedly sometime over the weekend of August 3–4.

Wargo was the chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), and his contributions to human exploration were many. He represented the directorate on the science teams for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCROSS missions, and most recently was a member of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team. He led by example, working closely with colleagues in the lunar, planetary, and Mars science communities, to build collaborative and highly productive projects for both exploration and science.

Wargo was the Executive Secretary of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) and was a fierce champion for the Moon at NASA Headquarters, and the following tribute was penned by LEAG’s leadership team:

“While [Mike’s] advice of patience may have been difficult to accept at times, it was invariably correct. He was also a believer in and a champion of the Moon and the Lunar Exploration Roadmap, which he helped construct through sound advice and coordination of roadmapping meetings. Mike was also a champion of the Specific Action Teams, through which LEAG has conducted many analyses for NASA.

Mike exuded an infectious passion, dedication, and enthusiasm for forging closer ties between science and exploration at NASA, which he achieved because of his encyclopedic knowledge of science and exploration issues that are involved with human spaceflight. Mike’s passion for science and exploration can be seen in this 2009 video where he described the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission.

In addition to LEAG meetings, Mike was ever-present at meetings of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) and the driving force behind defining and filling the Strategic Knowledge Gaps that grew out of the Space Policy changes of 2010 that occurred with the change in the US administration. Above all, he was a gentleman who was friendly, helpful, and considerate. His larger-than-life personality was accentuated by his laugh and his ability to always share a joke! We wish to extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Adele, and his family at this time. We are indebted to him for his contributions to LEAG, as well as lunar science and exploration. Mike — you are already missed.”

Funeral services will be held at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia, on Monday, August 12. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made in Wargo’s memory to the Department of Materials Science Endowed Fellowship Fund at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Checks may be made payable to MIT and should be mailed to Bonny Kellerman, ’72, Director of Memorial Gifts, 600 Memorial Drive, W98-500, Cambridge MA 02139.

The news of Mike passing has come as a great shock to all, and he will be missed terribly. In our grief, let us remember how Mike inspired us with his inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm, his hearty laugh and booming voice, and his dedication to NASA.

— Portions of text courtesy of LEAG leadership team and Marguerite Broadwell (NASA HQ)