ELSA is a Marie Curie Research Training Network supported by the European Community's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6). The network contract (MRTN-CT-2006-033481) was concluded between the European Commission and ELSA on 1st October 2006 and has a duration of 4 years.

The overall objectives of ELSA are to develop the theoretical understanding and practical analysis tools of importance for the European Space Agency's astrometric mission Gaia (to be launched in late-2011) and to foster the development of a new generation of researchers in the area of space astrometry.

Gaia builds on the proven principles of the Hipparcos mission (launched in 1989), but its goals are vastly more ambitious: to make a deep (20 mag) astrometric, photometric and spectroscopic all-sky survey of stars and other point-like objects including solar-system bodies and quasars. Among many other things, this will provide accurate distances, three-dimensional motions and photometric classifications for many millions of stars and an all-sky reference frame accurate to micro-arcsecond level.

ELSA has appointed a number of PhD students (ERS = Early Stage Researchers) and postdocs (ER = Experienced Researchers) to collaborate on specific problems related to the astrophysical, instrument modelling, algorithmic, numeric and software engineering aspects of Gaia. These activities complement, and are partly integrated into, the joint European effort to develop a complete scientific data analysis system for Gaia.

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