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Universities Space Research Association’s Paul Schenk, member of NASA’s Dawn Mission, shares coveted honor with team

The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) announced that the prestigious 2015 Robert J. Collier Trophy has been awarded to NASA's Dawn Project Team for its exploration of two extraterrestrial targets, Vesta and Ceres, in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Among the recipients of the team award is Universities Space Research Associations' (USRA) Paul Schenk.

The Robert J. Collier Trophy is awarded annually "for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year."

"The award of the Collier Trophy is a great acknowledgement of the tremendous work of the Dawn team in conceiving and building a spacecraft that has visited two stunningly different targets in the asteroid belt and delivered a wealth of fascinating new insight about the early history of the solar system" says Dr. Stephen Mackwell, Director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of USRA. "The amazing images and science from Vesta and Ceres, which have captured the imagination of people around the world, are a testimony to the vision and hard work of the mission team."

Paul Schenk is responsible for investigating the role of water ice in the formation of impact craters and their morphologies on Ceres.

The Dawn mission left Earth on September 27, 2007. It became the first spacecraft to orbit a main-belt asteroid with its exploration of Vesta in 2011-2012. It arrived at Ceres in March 2015 and was the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet. The scientific instruments aboard the spacecraft acquire color photographs, map the elemental and mineralogical composition, measure the gravity field and search for moons to enable scientists to understand the conditions that existed when our solar system formed.

The formal presentation of the Collier Trophy will take place on June 9, 2016 at a location to be announced. More information can be found at www.naa.aero .

Bright spots found on dwarf planet Ceres

A photo revealing a pockmarked, ice-rich surface, as well as bright spots which scientists claim to be salt, was captured by NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting around Ceres. credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

About LPI

The Lunar and Planetary Institute, a division of the Universities Space Research Association, was established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and to serve as a repository for information gathered during the early years of the space program. Today, the LPI is an intellectual leader in lunar and planetary science. The Institute serves as a scientific forum attracting world-class visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, students, and resident experts; supports and serves the research community through newsletters, meetings, and other activities; collects and disseminates planetary data while facilitating the community's access to NASA science; and engages and excites, and educates the public about space science and invests in the development of future generations of explorers. The research carried out at LPI supports NASA's efforts to explore the solar system.

About USRA

Universities Space Research Association is an independent, nonprofit research corporation where the combined efforts of in-house talent and university-based expertise merge to advance space science and technology. USRA works across disciplines including biomedicine, planetary science, astrophysics, and engineering and integrates those competencies into applications ranging from fundamental research to facility management and operations. USRA engages the creativity and authoritative expertise of the research community to develop and deliver sophisticated, forward-looking solutions to Federal agencies and other government sponsors.