Europe has launched the Gaia satellite - one of the most ambitious space missions in history. The 740m-euro observatory lifted off from the Sinnamary complex in French Guiana at 06:12 local time.
Gaia is going to map the precise positions and
distances to more than a billion stars. This should give us the first realistic
picture of how our Milky Way galaxy is constructed. Gaia's remarkable sensitivity
will lead also to the discovery of many thousands of previously unseen objects,
including new planets and asteroids. Separation from the Soyuz upper-stage was
confirmed just before 10:00 GMT. The satellite is now travelling out to an
observing station some 1.5 million km starting the Earth on its nightside a
journey that will take about a month to complete.