How Far is Mars from the Moon?

How Far is Mars from the Moon?

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How Far is Mars from the Moon?

The distance between Mars and Earth’s Moon varies considerably due to the elliptical orbits of both Mars and the Earth-Moon system around the Sun.  The distances also depend on where each body is in its respective orbit at a given time.

Closest and Farthest Distances:

  • Closest Approach:  At its closest approach to Earth (known as “opposition”), Mars can be around 56 million kilometers (about 34.8 million miles) away from Earth.  Since the Moon orbits Earth at an average distance of about 384,400 kilometers (about 238,855 miles), the minimum distance from Mars to the Moon would be approximately 56 million km – 384,400 km = 55.6 million km (approximately 34.6 million miles).

  • Farthest Distance:  At its farthest from Earth, Mars can be about 401 million kilometers (about 249 million miles) away.  Adding the Moon’s average distance from Earth, the farthest Mars could be from the Moon is roughly 401 million km + 384,400 km = 401.4 million km (approximately 249.2 million miles).

Additional Factors:

  • Orbital Eccentricity:  Both Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits, meaning their distances from the Sun, and therefore from each other, change over time.  Mars has a more elliptical orbit than Earth, which contributes to the variation in distance.

  • Alignment:  The distance also depends on the relative alignment of Earth, Mars, and the Moon. When Earth is between Mars and the Moon, the distance is shorter.  When Mars is on the opposite side of the Sun, the distance is much greater.

  • Moon’s Orbit:  The Moon’s orbit around Earth is also not a perfect circle but an ellipse, although the variation in distance due to this factor is much smaller compared to the variation in Earth-Mars distance.

Practical Considerations:

If we ever consider sending missions from the Moon to Mars or vice versa, these varying distances will be crucial.  However, any such mission would also have to consider the energy required for such a journey, which depends not only on distance but also on the relative speeds of the Moon and Mars in their orbits, among other factors.

Check out our 3D Mars Learning Center for more information on Mars.   You can also learn more at: NASA Mars Exploration.

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