Hipparcos will measure positions, proper motions and parallaxes for about 110 000 stars brighter than B = 13, with an expected mean error of 2.10−3 arcsec in positions and parallaxes and 2.10−3 arcsec/year in proper motions. The contents of the first provisional catalogue with respect to astrophysical problems is described, and the star distribution versus spectral type, magnitude and distance is given. All types of stars are well represented (spectral types, various evolutionary stages, giants, white dwarfs, …). Precise parallaxes for 29 000 stars closer than 100 pc will provide a new base for luminosity calibration, and will allow accurate stellar masses to be determined from double stars with known orbits. Precise proper motions, in conjunction with the improved distances, will substantially improve our knowledge of galactic structure. All types of stars used for the cosmic distance scale calibration are well represented: Cepheids, RR Lyrae, supergiants, open cluster stars.