AIRS (Atmospheric Infra-Red Sounder), was launched, in conjunction with AMSU-A (Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit-A) on the NASA polar orbiting research satellite EOS (Earth Observing System) Aqua satellite in May 2002 as a next generation atmospheric sounding system. Atmospheric sounders provide information primarily about the vertical distribution of atmospheric temperature and water vapor distribution. This is achieved by measuring outgoing radiation in discrete channels (spectral intervals) which are sensitive primarily to variations of these geophysical parameters. The primary objectives of AIRS/AMSU were to utilize such information in order to improve the skill of numerical weather prediction as well as to measure climate variability and trends. AIRS is a multi-detector array grating spectrometer with 2378 channels covering the spectral range 650/cm (15 microns) to 2660/cm (3.6 microns) with a resolving power (i/a i) of roughly 1200 where a i is the spectral channel bandpass. Atmospheric temperature profile can be determined from channel observations taken within the 15 micron (the long-wave CO2 absorption band) and within the 4.2 micron (the short-wave CO2 absorption band). Radiances in these (and all other) spectral intervals in the infrared are also sensitive to the presence of clouds in the instrument?s field of view (FOV), which are present about 95% of the time. AIRS was designed so as to allow for the ability to produce accurate Quality Controlled atmospheric soundings under most cloud conditions. This was achieved by having 1) extremely low channel noise values in the shortwave portion of the spectrum and 2) a very flat spatial response function within a channel?s FOV. IASI, the high spectral resolution IR interferometer flying on the European METOP satellite, does not contain either of these important characteristics. The AIRS instrument was also designed to be extremely stabile with regard to its spectral radiometric characteristics, which is critical with regard to the ability to measure accurate long term trends.