Understanding Earth's climate, atmospheric transport mechanisms, and the hydrologic cycle requires a precise knowledge of global atmospheric circulation, temperature profiles, and water vapor distribution. The accuracy of advanced sounders such as AIRS/AMSU/HSB on NASA's Aqua spacecraft can match radiosonde accuracy. It is essential to fold those capabilities fully into the NPOESS, enabling soundings of radiosonde accuracy every 6 hours around the globe on an operational basis. However, the size, mass, power demands, and thermal characteristics of the Aqua sounding instrument suite cannot be accommodated on the NPOESS spacecraft. AIRS-Light is an instrument concept, developed under the Instrument Incubator Program, which provides IR sounding performance identical to the AIRS instrument but uses advances in HgCdTe FPA technology and pulse tube cooler technology, as well as design changes, to dramatically reduce the size, mass, and power demand, allowing AIRS-Light to meet all NPOESS spacecraft interface requirements. The AIRS-Light Instrument Incubator program fostered the development of photovoltaic-mode HgCdTe detector array technology for the 13.5-15.4 μm band covered by photoconductive-mode HgCdTe arrays in AIRS, achieved state of the art results in this band, and substantially reduced the development risk for this last new technology needed for AIRS-Light implementation.