It has been a tremendous privilege to be involved in the Dawn mission. I was invited to join the team in 2010, a member of the cadre of Participating Scientists NASA provided to help synthesize the fascinating data being returned from Vesta during the 14 months the spacecraft orbited the protoplanet in 2011 and 2012.
Vesta is an intermediate-sized solar system body, between larger planetary objects like the Moon, and small asteroids like those that have been visited by other spacecraft (Gaspra, Ida, Matilda, Lutetia, Eros, etc.). It orbits the Sun in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. For me, the most exciting results from the Vesta phase of the mission are: 1. the general appearance of Vesta, and 2. findings related to one of my specific areas of research interest, Dawn’s investigation of the nature of surface modification on Vesta—or how the giant asteroid’s surface has changed over time.