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 was the first science investigation at Mars capable of performing a "4-dimensional" study (three spatial dimensions and time) of the key properties of the planet's atmosphere.
NASA / JPL-Caltech
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mars Climate Sounder artist concept
As Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flies about 300 kilometers (180 miles) above Mars' surface, it almost continuously scans the surface and edge of the atmosphere with the Mars Climate Sounder to build up a "four-dimensional" view of the temperature, pressure, and composition of the bottom 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Mars' atmosphere over the course of one Martian year.
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.
Mars Climate Sounder is now gathering long-term climate data during its extended mission, allowing it to study how the climate varies over time. The Planetary Society is a proud education outreach partner on the Mars Climate Sounder project.
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.