Press Release

NASA Portal Makes a Little Bit of Mars Available to Everyone on Earth

By SpaceRef Editor
February 20, 2004
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Spirit and Opportunity, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers,
are global hits: specifically, they’re 6.53 billion hits, more
than the Earth’s worldwide population.

Since Spirit’s landing on Jan. 4, NASA’s Web Portal has served
up images, web cast NASA Television mission coverage and
provided Internet users a direct link to the agency’s ongoing
exploration of Mars. Early this week, the hit count passed the
world population, which the U.S. census estimated Thursday
morning at more than 6.3 billion people.

“We’re thrilled at the interest people are taking in Spirit and
Opportunity,” said Jim Garvin, Chief Scientist for NASA’s Mars
Exploration Program. “One of the mission’s goals was to use the
Internet to bring the public ‘inside’ the mission, whether they
come on their own or through a school or museum. We feel like
we’ve accomplished that so far, and there’s still much more to
come,” he added.

The 6.53 billion hits the portal has served up are equivalent
to sending at least one piece of information (a picture, a
video clip or text from a Web page, for example) to every man
woman and child on Earth. Because most Web pages are made up of
several text and graphic elements — each of which counts as a
hit — the raw hit count translates into 914 million Web pages
being downloaded.

“To the best of our knowledge this is the biggest government
event in the history of the Internet,” remarked Glenn Mahone,
NASA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Public Affairs.
“We’ve passed the peak traffic for the IRS Web site during tax
season and for NOAA’s site during Hurricane Isabel last fall.
Since the rovers’ missions will last 90 days each, it’s
possible this will wind up being the biggest single event in
Internet history, ” he said.

“What’s particularly gratifying for us is that the results from
our customer satisfaction survey during the peak traffic were
the highest we’ve ever received. So not only were we serving
more people than ever, they told us we were doing the best job
we’ve ever done,” added Brian Dunbar, NASA’s Internet Services
Manager.

The rover mission is easily the biggest event in NASA’s Web
history, dwarfing previous Mars missions as well as the surge
of traffic that followed the loss of Columbia in February 2003.

Public reaction to the mission was immediate, as the portal
took 225 million hits in the first 24 hours after Spirit
landed, with more than 48,000 people watching NASA’s webcast of
mission coverage that night. Three weeks later, even more tuned
in for the landing of Opportunity.

Visitors have come from all over the world, with international
visitors making up approximately one-fifth of all traffic.
About one-quarter of the visitors said through the survey that
they were elementary or secondary school students or teachers.

NASA’s Office of Public Affairs and the Chief Information
Officer manage the NASA Web Portal. NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., provides project management,
and Sprint and Speedera Networks provide eTouch Systems of
Fremont, Calif., Web hosting and Web caching respectively.

For information on the NASA Web Portal, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

For information on the Mars Exploration Rovers on the Internet,
visit:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html

For the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates of world population on
the Internet, visit:

http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

SpaceRef staff editor.