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Internet users follow Mars missions
Network of sites will spread out multimillion-hit traffic
By Alan Boyle
The unofficial motto for NASA’s Mars exploration program is “better, faster, cheaper.” The mantra also applies to the team that updates information about the program on a network of Web sites that have drawn more than 700 million hits.

Internet users are flocking en masse to the network of sites.        WHEN MARS PATHFINDER bounced to the surface of Mars on July 4, three people had the task of coping with overwhelming Internet traffic.
       “We’re trying to do the best we can,” Rich Pavlovsky, a member of the team, said at the time.
       Mars Web engineer Kirk Goodall said Internet users are still flocking to the site, even as the focus has shifted from Pathfinder to Mars Global Surveyor. Pavlovsky is on temporary leave right now, but Goodall said he has assembled a “world-class team” of four people to keep up the main site for the Mars missions.
       He braced for 5 million hits on the day Global Surveyor entered Martian orbit in preparation for a two-year survey of the Red Planet.
       The main site, at, is maintained by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. But in order to handle the overwhelming demand, more than 50 mirror sites have been set up, representing every continent except Antarctica.
       The space agency first recruited other NASA servers, such as the Ames Research Center and the Kennedy Space Center, and then sought help from corporate sponsors. After some legal hurdles were cleared, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics Inc., Digital Equipment Corp. and CompuServe volunteered servers to the mission.
       NASA also received server space from organizations and universities in Germany, Japan, Denmark, Russia, Romania, France, South America and Uruguay.
       Even the Eastside Journal, a newspaper in suburban Seattle, set up a mirror site.
       “We felt there was a high degree of interest in that whole [Pathfinder] mission, and the one that’s going on now,” said Gary Murfin, the Eastside Journal’s vice president of marketing/Internet. “And we felt that the readers would have a strong interest in this and we could get it to them more quickly.”
       All the sites provide photographs, video and audio relating to Pathfinder as well as Global Surveyor and Mars Surveyor 98. Two Web sites even offer information translated into Italian and Slovenian.
       The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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