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MOTOAKI SATO

Death Notice
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SATO MOTOAKI SATO A prominent research geologist who led the study of lunar mineral samples for NASA during the height of the moon-exploration era, died September 9, 2012 at age 82 at his home in Reston, Virginia. Born October 11, 1929 to Iwazou and Kyoko Sato in Tokyo, Japan, Motoaki was the youngest, and last surviving of five siblings (Tadasaburo, Haruko, Kazuko, Junko.) Raised by his mother after his father died when Motoaki was 12, he attended the University of Tokyo, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in geology., workingHe worked his way through school as an interpreter and tour guide for American tourists. Following completion of his M.S.,master's degree, he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1955 that allowed him to earn his Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Minnesota. From 1958 to 1961, he held a post-doctoral research fellow position at Harvard University. There, he met Ellen B. Levinson, a graduate student in Harvard's anthropology and sociology department. They married at Christ Church in Cambridge, Mass. on February 11, 1961. The couple then moved to Misasa, Japan, where Motoaki was an associate professor at Okayama University's Institute for Thermal Spring Research, and their oldest daughter, Emily, was born. In 1963, they returned to the U.S., where Motoaki had been offered a job as a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, DC. The family resided in the Old Town section of Alexandria, VA, where their daughter Alice and son Thomas were born. Motoaki was appointed Chief of the Electrochemistry of Minerals project in 1965. From 1971 to 1980, he was a Principal Investigator of the Lunar Sample and Science program for NASA, and the Chief of the Extraterrestrial Oxygen Fugacity Project at the USGS. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1973. That same year the family moved to McLean, VA, in tandem with the USGS's relocation from Washington, DC to Reston, VA. Motoaki became Chief of the USGS Geochemistry of Gas-Forming Elements Project in 1980, working on earthquake and volcanic eruption prediction, as well as the origin of life, until the end of his formal career in 1995. Following retirement, he was awarded the position of Scientist Emeritus at the USGS, where he pursued research in the area of energy resources. He later donated a patent he obtained for a cost-effective method of cleaning up acid mine drainage to the U.S. government. Following his separation (1976) and divorce from Ellen (1978), Motoaki married Anne M. Noble (daughter, Leslie Artemesia Noble) in the fall of 1978. They separated four years later in 1982, and divorced in 1990. He moved to Reston in 1988, where he became an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax and participated in many events hosted by the church. He loved his home on Lake AudobonAudubon, where he lived in the care of his son Tom for the last 4four years of his life. Motoaki loved to garden, sharing his interest with his children. He also loved to travel, and visited many of the geologically interesting areas of the world, including Iceland, Sicily, Chile, and New Zealand. He is survived by his three children, Emily Sato (James Kenny) of Bainbridge Island, Wash., Alice Sato (Christopher Osborn) of Cleveland Heights, Ohio; and Thomas Sato of Reston, VA, and six grandchildren: Andrew, Elizabeth, Grace, Zachary, Guinevere and Devin. A memorial service is planned for Sunday, September 30 , 2012 at Universalist Unitarian Church of Fairfax, 2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, VA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).A memorial service is planned for Sunday, September 30 , 2012 at Universalist Unitarian Church of Fairfax, 2709 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, VA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Published in The Washington Post on Sept. 26, 2012
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