In July 1969 when the US Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon, an estimated 500 million people tuned in to watch on TV across the world. The space race between the US and the Russians had captured the public's imagination the world over. Over the next few years, though, public interest in lunar exploration began to wane and NASA space missions were no longer a television spectacle. With unmanned missions to Mars over the past few years, however, that interest is back. People are no longer glued to their television sets, but instead to their computer screens. For tonight's Phoenix lander touch down, NASA is pulling out all the stops for Internet coverage, as it expects over a 100 million people to log on.

In 2004, more than 250,000 people tuned into to watch mission control during that year's Mars mission on NASA TV, the space organization online television channel. "In 2004 there were more than 60 million unique visitors and over 550 million page views and 17.5 billion hits. Based on trends since then for our other missions and launches, we expect to see a significant increase to this, perhaps twice as much," Jeanne Holm, chief knowledge architect for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told CIO Magazine.

In addition to being broadcast to over 100 museum events across the US, NASA is broadcasting the the Phoenix landing on NASA TV and live blogging from mission control. The official mission page has a lot of great information and multimedia about the Phoenix mission, which is expected to touch down on Mars at 19:53:33 ET (just before 8 PM).

Give it a look and let us know what you thought of NASA's web coverage of the latest mission to Mars.