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Space, also referred to as outer space, is the region of the universe beyond Earth's atmosphere. Since the human discovery of the Solar System in the 17th century, space has long been a subject of scientific studies, artistic representation and fascination for the general public, all of which have seen great advancements with the advent of the Internet.
NASA Science Internet
The online history of outer space as a research discussion topic dates back to the mid-1980s with the development of the NASA Science Network (NSN) by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one of the early applications of the Internet Protocol that connected space researchers to data and information stored anywhere in the world for the first time. In 1989, the NSN evolved into NASA Science Internet (NSI), the first multiprotocol wide area network that could provide completely integrated communications to over 20,000 scientists within the NASA scientific community.
The Mars Pathfinder was an exploration probe launched on December 4th, 1996. On July 4th, 1997, the probe landed on the planet's Chryse Planitia region to conduct experiments on the surface. MSNBC published an article titled "Internet Users Follow Mars Missions", which reported that NASA was struggling to cope with Internet traffic after the Pathfinder reached the surface of Mars on July 4th. The NASA Pathfinder website received several awards, including 1998 Best of the Net, Los Angeles Times 1997 Pick, Cool Site of the Day and Family Site of the Day. On July 14th, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled "Millions Visit Mars -- on the Internet", which reported that the network of mirror sites hosting information about the probe average about 40 to 45 million hits a day.
Spirit and Opportunity (2004)
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration's (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the Mars Exploration Rover mission on July 28th, 2000 after losing two Mars probes in 1999. On June 8th, 2003, the two rovers were given the names Spirit and Opportunity by 9-year-old Sofi Collis in an essay contest. Spirit was launched two days later on the 10th from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just short of a month later, on July 7th, Opportunity went on its way. The rovers did not land until January 2004.
The rovers made significant discoveries while on Mars; within the first month of its landing, Opportunity found mineral spheres dubbed "blueberries" that alluded to water possibly existing on the planet. In May 2007, Spirit uncovered a patch of soil composed of 90% silica, which scientists concluded was concentrated by a water source. Though the two rovers only had a 90 Sol (Martian Days, 92.5 Earth days) mission, Opportunity continues its research, as of August 2012. Spirit was active until March 20th, 2010, after it had been stuck on flat ground for 10 months.
A third rover, Curiosity, was launched on November 26, 2011, landing on the planet on August 6th, 2012. Its name was chosen on May 27th, 2009 by sixth grader Clara Ma who won a Twitter-launched NASA essay contest. During its landing, the rover live-tweeted the event from its official Twitter account.
I'm safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012