February 20, 2004 4:42 PM PST

NASA: 6.5 billion served on the Web

NASA's recent Mars expedition was a hit on the Web--in fact it was the agency's greatest hit of all time.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Thursday that during the past month and a half, the total number of visits to its home page, which hosted images and video feeds from the two recent rover landings on Mars, was greater than the total population of humans on Earth. NASA said its home page received 6.53 billion hits--the number of times someone pulls up a Web site--surpassing Earth's population of 6.3 billion people. The visitor numbers cover the period from Jan. 4, when the first rover, Spirit, landed, through Thursday.

Although the idea of using hits as a measurement of success went out the window during the dot-com bust, NASA thinks the numbers are still a milestone.

"To the best of our knowledge this is the biggest government event in the history of the Internet," NASA spokesman Glenn Mahone said in a statement. "We've passed the peak traffic for the IRS Web site during tax season and for NOAA's (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) site during Hurricane Isabel last fall."

The most popular days occurred when NASA's two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed and broadcast their first images of the red planet. NASA said its Web site received 225 million hits during the first 24 hours after Spirit landed. The agency said it received more hits when Opportunity landed on Jan. 25, although NASA did not say how many.

Measuring Web traffic through hits is now considered too broad because someone visiting a site multiple times is counted every time he or she pulls up the site on the computer screen.

Web measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings reported that 1.9 million unique visitors went to NASA's home page when Sprit landed, while 2.6 million unique Web users visited NASA for Opportunity's landing. Individuals who visit a site, no matter how many times, are counted as one unique visitor, according to NetRatings.

Since the Opportunity landing, traffic had dropped to 1.8 million unique visitors as of Feb. 8, NetRatings said.

 

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