265m take virtual trips to Mars

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Roughly 265 million people have gone to Mars in the past week - at least, virtually, by visiting the Internet sites set up by the US space agency Nasa to show pictures and results from the Pathfinder mission. Among the sights [at the sites] is a virtual reality simulation of the lander and its immediate surroundings, using the photographs taken at the scene: the computer program lets the viewer swoop around and view the scene from any angle. The Nasa scientists are using it to interpret their results so far and plan the rover's next moves, after crashing it into a rock on Thursday night.

Each day, the 19 sites on the World Wide Web showing pictures and data direct from Mars have received roughly 45 million "hits" - individual requests for files or information - from Internet users around the world. The number is a new record for sustained interest in a single event on the Internet, though the record for a single day is still held by the interest shown in the American election results last November, when 50 million people accessed a site run by the US news network CNN. Charles Arthur