We have heard and read many numbers about Gaia: the number of stars and other objects that it will observe, the maximum observable magnitude, the microarcsecond of accuracy and the remarkable focal length of 35 m. We have also read that such a powerful telescope on Earth would be able to detect a button on the spacesuit of an astronaut on the Moon.
But let’s look at more hidden numbers.
Industrial involvement in Gaia
It took over 3.5 million hours to study, design, build and test Gaia. That’s about 300 people working full time for 7 years, spread over 74 different companies and 16 countries.
Meanwhile the design and implementation of the science and the operations ground segments required almost 450 000 hours. As much time will be needed to run the science and operational aspect of the mission even once Gaia will be launched – that is, over 50 people working for the nominal mission lifetime of 5 years.
To process the data that Gaia will transmit to Earth, some 3 400 000 hours will be needed from the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC). That’s more than 400 scientists and engineers working full time each year of ...