Mars will reach its closest distance to Earth in 11 years

While the Red Planet will remain bright in the night sky for another month, the Mars Close Approach will take place on Sunday, May 30, when it will be the closest to our planet since 2003. The Mars portrait features the Hellas Planitia basin, a 3.5-billion-year-old asteroid crater. Mars was in opposition - where the planet and the Sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth - which only happens every two years. By 2020, NASA will carry out the Mars 2020 mission, which aims to send a high-tech rover equipped with complex tools. Syrtis Major is an ancient, inactive shield volcano.

NASA originally designed Valkyrie several years ago to compete in the disaster-relief robotics contest hosted by the US military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, but now it's looking for outside expertise to craft her into a kind of space mechanic.

The Hubble observation of Mars was taken just before the Mars opposition on May 22, when the sun and Mars ended up on precisely opposite ends of Earth.

If the skies are clear, the planet will be visible without the need for a telescope or binoculars for much of the night. Well now is the time to catch the Red Planet as it makes its closest approach to Earth in the past eleven years. The Arabia Terra was also visible as a yellow part in the images.

South of Arabia Terra, running east to west along the equator, are the long dark features known as Sinus Sabaeus (to the east) and Sinus Meridiani (to the west). The regions owe their darkness to the dark bedrock and fine-grained sand deposits. "These sand grains are coarser and less reflective than the fine dust that gives the brighter regions of Mars their ruddy appearance", according to NASA.

Mars One is a non-profit foundation which aims to "establish the first human settlement on Mars".

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