Mars Climate Sounder, one of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's six science instruments, is performing a detailed, systematic study of Mars' weather and climate. Mars Climate Sounder is the first science investigation at Mars that is capable of performing a "4-dimensional" study (three spatial dimensions and time) of the key properties of Mars' atmosphere. Since Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began its science operations in November 2006, Mars Climate Sounder has been acquiring vertical profiles of the temperature, pressure, dust, and clouds of the lower 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Mars' atmosphere. An intermittent error that first appeared in December 2006 has occasionally plagued instrument operations, but as of March 2009 had disappeared. Now that Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is in its extended mission, Mars Climate Sounder is gathering climate data from its second Mars year of operations, allowing it to study how the climate varies from year to year. As it did in 2007, Mars Climate Sounder is now closely watching the development of the late southern spring's occasionally planet-encircling dust storms. Just after Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at Mars, Mars Climate Sounder captured a unique portrait of the spacecraft's instrument deckand many of its other science instruments. The Planetary Society is an education outreach partner on Mars Climate Sounder and is proud to be a part of this next phase of Mars exploration.
Last week Mars Climate Sounder collected its 20 millionth sounding at Mars. Mars Climate Sounder is scanning without problems, collecting science observations of the atmosphere of Mars. Mars Climate Sounder has now been observing Mars for over 17 months (three quarters of a Mars year and also approximately three quarters of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter primary science mission).
Two months after the start of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's primary science phase, the Mars Climate Sounder instrument has already acquired more than four million soundings, building toward a vast data set on the three-dimensional structure of Mars' atmosphere over the full Martian year of the orbiter's nominal mission.
They held the usual pre-arrival press conference this morning for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This press conference typically doesn't convey any information that people who have been paying attention don't already know.