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What Is the Distance Between Earth and Mars?

marsglobe3 viking big
A photo of Mars from NASA's Viking spacecraft, which launched in 1975. (Image credit: The Viking Project/NASA)

The distance from Earth to Mars varies a lot, because Earth’s orbit around the sun is might smaller than Mars’ orbit. Earth is the third planet from the sun, and Mars is the fourth.

Imagine two cars on a racetrack, and one is always on the inside while the other is on the outside. Earth is on the inside track, and so it gets around more quickly. Sometimes it’s close to Mars, when it’s making a pass, and other times it’s far away, at the other side of the track.

The minimum distance from the Earth to Mars is about 54.6 million kilometers. The farthest apart they can be is about 401 million km. The average distance is about 225 million km.

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Space.com Staff

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.