February 19, 2004
NASA Portal Makes A Little Bit Of Mars Available To Everyone On Earth
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:
For information on the Mars Exploration Rovers on the Internet, visit:
For the U.S. Census Bureau's estimates of world population on the Internet, visit:
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