The ESA space astrometry mission Gaia will measure the positions, parallaxes and proper motions of the 1 billion brightest stars on the sky. Expected accuracies are in the 7–25 μas range down to 15 mag and sub-mas accuracies at the faint limit (20 mag). The astrometric data are complemented by low-resolution spectrophotometric data in the 330–1000 nm wavelength range and, for the brighter stars, radial velocity measurements. The scientific case covers an extremely wide range of topics in galactic and stellar astrophysics, solar system and exoplanet science, as well as the establishment of a very accurate, dense and faint optical reference frame. With a planned launch around 2012 and an (extended) operational lifetime of 6 years, final results are expected around 2021. We give a brief overview of the science goals of Gaia, the overall project organisation, expected performance, and some key technical features and challenges.