As the spacecraft flies, Mars is millions of miles away.
Thanks to the Internet, NASA can bring it into your living
room, to a local Internet cafe, or anywhere else with access to
the World Wide Web.

Between 3 a.m. EST Saturday and 9:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, NASA’s
Web portal, which includes the agency’s home page, the Mars
program Web and the Spaceflight Web, received 916 million hits,
and users downloaded 154 million Web pages. The site’s one-
billionth hit was expected at about 3 p.m. EST Tuesday. In
comparison, the portal received 2.8 billion hits for all of

Internet users began tuning in to the Web cast of NASA
Television on Saturday, Jan. 4, and kept coming back. By
Tuesday, more than 250,000 people had watched some of the
mission coverage. More than 48,000 people tuned into mission
control for the landing at 11:30 p.m. EST on Saturday.

“We knew this mission would be a great opportunity to bring the
excitement of exploring Mars directly to people,” said Michelle
Viotti, manager of public engagement for NASA’s Mars
Exploration Program. “Six years ago, Mars Pathfinder allowed
the world to participate in planetary exploration, and broke
all prior Internet records for Web traffic. It looks like we
may do it again, and this time we’ll have even more to offer
online so the public can share the adventure in real time.”

By early Tuesday, users downloaded nearly 15 terabytes of
information from the portal (a terabyte (Tb) is a million
megabytes). A Tb of data would fill about one million standard
floppy disks or more than 1,300 data CDs. It would take more
about 20,000 CDs to store 15 Tbs. That’s a stack of CDs,
without cases, more than 100 feet high.)

Since 1994, when Comet Shoemaker-Levy collided with Jupiter,
NASA has been using the Internet to bring the excitement of
exploration directly to the public,” said Brian Dunbar, NASA’s
Internet services manager. “Most of the time we host these
sites on the NASA network, but events of this magnitude require
more bandwidth than we can provide ourselves. So when we were
defining requirements for the portal, a scalable, secure,
offsite hosting environment was a requirement.”
For comparison, 24-hour traffic figures for major NASA events
in the Internet era:

Pathfinder, July 9, 1997, hits: 47 million; Mars Polar Lander,
Dec. 3, 1999, hits: 69 million; Columbia loss, Feb. 1, 2003,
hits: 75, 539, 052; sessions: 1,060,887; page views:
10,042,668; Tbs: 0.41; Stardust, Jan. 2, 2004, hits:
12,011,502; sessions: 120,339; page views: 1,651,898; Tbs:
0.12; Spirit landing, Jan. 3-4, 2004, hits: 109,172,900; Tbs:

Brought online less than a year ago, the NASA Web portal uses a
commercial hosting infrastructure with capacity that can be
readily increased to accommodate short-term, high-visibility
events. Content is replicated and stored on 1,300 computers
worldwide to shorten download times for users.

In 1997, the Mars Pathfinder team built a volunteer network of
reflector sites and served one of the biggest Internet events
to that time, if not the biggest. For the Mars Exploration
Rovers, the existing portal infrastructure was available, so
the Mars Web content was incorporated into the environment.

The portal prime contractor is eTouch Systems Corp. of Fremont,
Calif. Speedera Networks, Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif. is
delivering the NASA Web content over its globally distributed
on-demand computer network. Content is replicated and stored on
thousands of computer servers around the world to shorten
download times for users.

This infrastructure enables NASA to provide access to the
latest images from Mars, which will automatically be added to
the Mars Exploration Rover site as they are received on Earth.
The network also allows NASA’s museum partners to access high-
resolution images and video for big-screen, highly immersive
experiences in local communities. Students and teachers will
also find weekly classroom activities so that they can be a
part of discovery on Mars.

“The portal was designed technically and graphically to enable
NASA to communicate directly with members of the public,
especially young people,” said Dunbar. “It’s a key element of
NASA’s mission to inspire the next generation of explorers as
only NASA can,” he said.For more information about NASA
programs on the Internet, visit: