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Web Sites Are Ready for Mars Lander

Added: (Fri Dec 03 1999)

Pressbox (Press Release) - By MATTHEW FORDAHL AP Science Writer

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Pictures, weather reports, science data and even sound clips from Mars will soon be just a mouse click away.

Virtual tourists will be able to access the sights and sounds of the Red Planet beginning on Friday, when NASA's Polar Lander begins transmitting from 157 million miles away.

Internet traffic is expected to rival that of the Independence Day weekend of 1997, when the landing of Mars Pathfinder attracted a record 33 million hits a day.

"It's hard to say that it will be the Internet's biggest event ever, but it certainly will be right up there," said Kirk Goodall, a Web page engineer at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Faster computers should prevent Internet traffic jams that made it difficult to access sites two years ago.

For this mission, several million hits are expected in the first days after the landing near Mars' south pole, with at least 1 billion during the entire three-month mission. A hit is counted each time a file such as a graphic or text is accessed on a Web site's host computer.

In addition, Polar Lander's pages will be duplicated at 20 mirror Web sites around the world. Technology now allows browsers to be automatically redirected to mirror sites with the least traffic.

"If we have any problems, we have other mirror sites we haven't told the world about yet," Goodall said.

Improvements over the Pathfinder presentation also include streaming video from NASA TV, a continuously updated panorama of the operations room at JPL and a movie of the descent made up of shots made by a camera mounted at the bottom of the lander.

By Saturday, sound clips recorded from the lander's small microphone are expected to be available online from the Planetary Society, a private space advocacy group that funded that part of the mission.

Web sites offering information on Mars and the Polar Lander mission:

JPL's main Mars site will post the latest pictures and updates throughout the 90-day mission: marslander.jpl.nasa.gov or mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98

JPL's home page has links to the latest Mars projects as well as probes sent to other planets over the last 20 years. www.jpl.nasa.gov

JPL's Mars Educational site includes activities for children and teachers. In one section, pages can be printed, folded and glued to create a model of the Mars Polar Lander: marsnt3.jpl.nasa.gov/education/index.html

The University of California, Los Angeles, where the primary science team is based, offers a site focusing on experiments aboard the Mars Volatiles and Climate Surveyor payload: marspolarlander.com.

The Planetary Society will mirror JPL's site and offer its own content in conjunction with its PlanetFest '99 gathering at the Pasadena Center: planetary.org

The Mars Society, which advocates human exploration of the Red Planet, will mirror JPL and offer its own content: www.marssociety.org

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