In the early pre-dawn hours on December 19, 2013, with a rumble and a roar, a Soyuz rocket blazed through the clouds above the jungle-lined coast of French Guiana, ferrying ESA’s long-awaited Gaia spacecraft into orbit and beginning its mission to map the stars of the Milky Way. The fascinating time-lapse video above from ESA shows the Gaia spacecraft inside the clean room unfurling like a flower during its sunshield deployment test, the transfer of the Soyuz from the assembly building to the pad, and then its ultimate fiery liftoff.
That’s a lot going on in two minutes! But once nestled safely in its L2 orbit 1.5 million kilometers out, Gaia will have over five years to complete its work… read more here.
Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja, M. Pedoussaut, 2013. Source: ESA