MADRID – If space is the final frontier, it will help to have an accurate map, and the European Space Agency says its mission to chart more than 1 billion stars in the Milky Way is on track for completion in a year's time.
The agency released the first data Wednesday from its ongoing effort to draw the biggest and most precise three-dimensional map of our galaxy.
Mission manager Fred Jansen told a news conference in Madrid that he is "extremely happy" with the precision of the data gathered so far. It is being distributed among scientists for analysis.
At the heart of the five-year mission is the 10-meter (33-foot)-wide Gaia spacecraft, which resembles a barrel sitting on a saucer. It carries two telescopes and is orbiting slowly around the sun.