16:19 19 December 2013
Europe has launched the Gaia satellite with the goal to map the precise positions and distances to more than a billion stars.
The £620m observatory, which is one of the most ambitious and expensive space missions in history, has lifted off from the Sinnamary complex in French Guiana.
Gaia is expected to provide the first clear picture of how Milky Way Galaxy is constructed.
Prof Gerry Gilmore from Cambridge University, UK said: "It will allow us, for the first time ever, to walk through the Milky Way - to say where everything is, to say what everything is. It is truly a transformative mission.”
Dr Michael Perryman, the former Gaia Esa project scientist, reacted to the news saying; "Of course, there will be big statistical projects you can tackle with this data, but it is clear the scale of Gaia means this information is not going to be superseded for a very long time.”
CEO Eric Beranger added: "For this masterpiece, for this jewel of space hardware, Astrium gathered and led an industrial consortium made up of 50 companies - 47 European, three North American.”
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