On August 27, 2003, Mars was closest to the Sun, and Earth near its most distant point from the Sun during the time of the Mars opposition. This combination brought the Earth and Mars unusually close together. As a result, Earth and Mars were 34.6 million miles away from each other; the closest they had been in 60,000 years.
Photo credit: John Nemy & Carol Legate of Whistler, B.C. (NASA: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/09jun_marshoax/)