Astronaut Mario Runco Jr. retires from NASA

HOUSTON — After nearly 48 years of federal service, veteran NASA astronaut and Earth and planetary scientist Mario Runco Jr. has retired from NASA.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Runco holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth and Planetary Science from the City College of New York, a Master of Science degree in Meteorology from Rutgers University and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the City College of New York.

After graduating from Rutgers University, Runco worked for a year as a research hydrologist and conducted groundwater surveys for the U.S. Geological Survey in Long Island, New York.  In 1977, he joined the New Jersey State Police and worked as a New Jersey State Trooper until he entered the Navy in June 1978. In September 1978, upon completion of Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, Runco was commissioned and assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey, California, as a research meteorologist. Runco served as a meteorological officer from 1981 to 1983, where he earned his Surface Warfare Officer designation.  From 1983 to 1985, he served as a laboratory instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. In 1986, Runco served as a Commanding Officer of Oceanographic Unit 4 embarked in USNS CHAUVENET (T-AGS 29) and conducted hydrographic and oceanographic surveys of the Java Sea and Indian Ocean. Runco’s final Navy billet in 1987 was as a fleet environmental services officer at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

In 1987, Runco joined NASA and remained on active duty as a NASA astronaut until 1994. As an astronaut, Runco logged over 551 hours in space during three space shuttle missions. He conducted one spacewalk,  helped deploy four satellites and supported more than a dozen other space shuttle missions in various roles before moving into his final role was as an Earth and planetary scientist.

As an Earth and planetary scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Runco served as lead for spacecraft window optics and helped with the design, development and utilization of both the International Space Station’s Earth-viewing optical quality science window and the Window Observational Research Facility, both of which remain in active use today.