Against a backdrop of intensive exploration of the Martian surface environment, intended to lead to human exploration, some aspects of the modern climate and the meteorology of Mars remain relatively unexplored. In particular, there is a need for detailed measurements of the vertical profiles of atmospheric temperature, water vapor, dust, and condensates to understand the intricately related processes upon which the surface conditions, and those encountered during descent by landers, depend. The most important of these missing data are accurate and extensive temperature measurements with high vertical resolution. The Mars Climate Sounder experiment on the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, described here, is the latest attempt to characterize the Martian atmosphere with the sort of coverage and precision achieved by terrestrial weather satellites. If successful, it is expected to lead to corresponding improvements in our understanding of meteorological phenomena and to enable improved general circulation models of the Martian atmosphere for climate studies on a range of timescales.