WARGO--Michael J., Chief Exploration Scientist for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission, died unexpectedly on August 4 at his home in Alexandria, VA. He was 61 years old. Dr. Wargo was the son of Margaret and John J. Wargo of Clairton, PA, both deceased, who themselves were the children of Slovak immigrants. Michael was a leading contributor to NASA's human lunar and planetary exploration program. As a scientific member of many lunar missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the LCROSS satellite, Dr. Wargo helped map resources for human missions to the moon and participated in the discovery of ice in the shadows of lunar craters. In a nearly two-decade career at NASA, he received numerous awards including NASA's Exceptional Service Medal and seven group achievement awards. He was a member of the team planning the next robotic mission to Mars in 2020 and worked gathering crucial scientific information needed to allow humans to be sent safely to the moon, Mars and near-Earth asteroids. Much of his work has helped develop a "roadmap" for human and robotic space exploration for the next two decades. Dr. Wargo graduated from M.I.T., with an SB degree in Earth and Planetary Science and received a Doctorate in Materials Science in 1982. At MIT, he was recognized with the John Wulff Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Hugh Hampton Young Memorial Fund Prize for exhibiting leadership and creativity while maintaining exceptionally broad and interdisciplinary interests. He began his career at NASA by turning a fledgling microgravity research division into a worldclass program. NASA drew on Dr. Wargo's ability to explain complex scientific findings in straightforward terms as a spokesman at agency press conferences. NASA is asking the International Astronomical Union to name a crater on the moon in his honor "so his name will be forever enshrined in the heavens." His colleagues and his friends remember him as inspirational, full of passion and energy, with a booming voice and a great heart. He is survived by his wife, Adele Morrissette of New York, NY, and brothers John, David and Robert, all of whom graduated from M.I.T. Visitation will be held on Sunday afternoon August 11, at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home and funeral services will be held on Monday August 12 at 12:30pm at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, both in Alexandria VA. Gifts may be made to MIT in memory of Michael Wargo for the Department of Materials Science Endowed Fellowship Fund by contacting Bonny Kellerman, firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-253-9722.
Published in The New York Times on Aug. 9, 2013