The National Air and Space Museum's 2014 Trophy Award Winner for Current Achievement goes to the Dawn Flight Team.
The Dawn team has successfully performed the challenging feat of orbiting and exploring Vesta, the second most massive asteroid of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, unlocking the secrets of this mysterious, alien world, and shedding important new light on the early solar system. Dawn's ambitious mission to explore Vesta and Ceres would be impossible without the use of ion propulsion. This technology made the project affordable within NASA's Discovery Program with conventional chemical propulsion. It also helped Dawn to eclipse the record for the largest propulsive velocity change by any spacecraft.
Destination Ceres: Icy World Revealed?
Britney Schmidt (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Julie Castillo-Rogez (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) discussed Ceres, a class of solar system objects that haven't yet been explored in depth, and how those explorations have the potential to change our concept of early solar system formation. We are predicting that Ceres is a dirt-covered icy world which will tell us about processes that operate in the early solar system, where, for a long time, most scientists thought ice didn't exist.