27 August 2003

Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, passing 34,646,418 miles (55,758,005 km) distant.

Mars and Earth have varying distances between them due to their elliptical orbits around the Sun. The closest approach of Mars to Earth is called “opposition,” which occurs when Mars and the Sun are on opposite sides of Earth. During opposition, Mars and Earth are relatively close, making it an optimal time for observing Mars from Earth.

On average, Mars is about 225 million kilometers (140 million miles) away from Earth. However, during opposition, the distance between the two planets can be significantly reduced. The closest recorded distance in recent history occurred on August 27, 2003, when Mars was about 54.6 million kilometers (33.9 million miles) away from Earth. This was an unusually close approach and won’t be matched until September 2035, when Mars will again come relatively close to Earth.