Dawn is beginning its departure from Vesta, spiraling upward from its low-altitude mapping orbit to a higher one from which it will map north polar terrain not visible during the earlier mapping orbit.
Marc Rayman's monthly check-in with the Dawn mission describes the achievements of the spacecraft in its Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit (including near-global high-resolution imaging!) and explains what's next.
The Dawn mission's Project System Engineer Marc Rayman reports that Dawn concluded 2011 more than 40 thousand times nearer to Vesta than it began the year. It is now at its lowest altitude of the mission, conducting a detailed exploration of the protoplanet and continuing to make new discoveries.
In this update on the Dawn mission, project system engineer Marc Rayman reports that the probe is headed for its low altitude mapping orbit (LAMO), where it will focus on making a census of the atomic constituents and on mapping the gravity field in order to determine Vesta's interior structure.
Dawn's fourth anniversary of being in space is very different from its previous ones. Indeed, those days all were devoted to reaching the distant destination the ship is now exploring. Celebrating its anniversary of leaving Earth, Dawn is in orbit around a kindred terrestrial-type world, the ancient protoplanet Vesta.