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.
May 16, 2012 is the third martian anniversary of the start of Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) observations from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. MCS started measuring the atmosphere of Mars three Mars years ago, on September 24, 2006. We can now compare the weather and behavior of the atmosphere in three different years, and find the temperature differences to be surprisingly large.
The Mars Climate Sounder instrument provides routine nightside observations of atmospheric temperature and opacity that document the presence of rapidly evolving water ice cloud layers in the Martian tropics during the northern summer season.
I just posted the following update to the Mars Climate Sounder Team Website. I didn't realize until this message came in to my inbox that it is now one Mars year before Curiosity lands. Tick, tick, tick...
Two weeks ago Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) started a four-week campaign to support entry, descent, and landing phase for the next Mars rover, Mars Science Laboratory (or "Curiosity").
One of the instruments on a 2016 mission to orbit Mars will provide daily maps of global, pole-to-pole, vertical distributions of the temperature, dust, water vapor and ice clouds in the Martian atmosphere.