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Mars was closest to Earth in recorded history:

A Neighborly Visit in 2003

Mars Global Surveyor image of Earth
Earth as seen from Mars by the Global Surveyor
click to enlarge digitally enhanced image
In the year 2003, Mars was closer to Earth than any previous time in recorded human history.

On August 27, 2003, Earth and Mars were a short 34,647,658 miles (55,760,000 kilometers) apart.

The two planets had not been that close in some 60,000 years.

It was great news for astronomers because the Red Planet appeared unusually large in diameter. That made it relatively easy to resolve features on the martian surface with a large telescope.

In fact, Mars appeared very bright and its red-orange color was quite conspicuous.

One frustration for astronomers, however, was a huge dust storm that happened to be raging over a third of Mars' surface, obscuring some features.    More on the dust storm »

Learn more:
Human Exploration of Mars:
There have been three stages of exploration so far
Sand dunes: Dust Storms: Air: Carbon Dioxide: Outflow Channels: Valley Networks: Rift Valley: Ice: Ice caps: Frost: Water: Artesian Water: Mars Weather: Mars Photo Galleries: Planet features: Canals: Rocks: Mountains: Dating and aging: Seasons:
Exploring Mars
Mars Probes
Probes of the Past
Probes of the Future
Mars Water
Mars Canals
Mars Air
Mars Rocks
Mars Seasons
Mars Mountains
Mars Rift Valley
Mars Moons
Mars Life Search
Mars Dust Storms
Mars Stats
Mars Nearby
Mars history
Mars Resources
Mars Orbiter 2005
Mars Scout 2007
Rover Spirit 2003
Rover Opportunity 2003
Express 2003
Odyssey 2001
Polar Lander 1999
Climate Orbiter 1998
Deep Space 2 1999
Global Surveyor 1996
Pathfinder Lander 1996
Rover Sojourner 1996
Pathfinder Mission 1996
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-2 Orbiter 1975
Viking-1 Lander 1975
Viking-1 Orbiter 1975
Mariner 9 Orbiter 1971
Mars 3 Lander 1971
Mariner 4 Flyby 1964
Viking Mission 1975
Mars Meteorites - JPL
2003 & Beyond - Goddard
2005 & Beyond - JPL
Mars Exploration - JPL
Plans to Explore Planets

Solar System - JPL
Welcome to the Planets - JPL
Planetary Photojournal - JPL
Mars - Athena - NASA Ames
Solar System Tour - BBC
Mars - New York Times
Windows...Universe - UMich
Mars - Apollo Society
Planetary Society
Mars Society
The Nine Planets
Planet Mars Company
Solar System - STO
Solar System Tour
Artist conception of Mars with water four billion years ago
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