The radiative balance of the troposphere, and hence global climate, is dominated by the infrared absorption and emission of water vapor, particularly at far-infrared (far-IR) wavelengths from 15-50 μm. Water vapor is the principle absorber and emitter in this region. The distribution of water vapor and associated far-IR radiative forcings and feedbacks are widely recognized as major uncertainties in our understanding of current and the prediction of future climate. Cirrus clouds modulate the outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) in the far-IR, and up to half of the OLR from the Earth occurs beyond 15.4 μm (650 cm-1). Current and planned operational and research satellites observe the mid-infrared to only about 15.4 μm, leaving space or airborne spectral measurement of the far-IR region unsupported. NASA is now developing the technology required to make regular far-IR measurements of the Earth"s atmosphere possible. Far InfraRed Spectroscopy of the Troposphere (FIRST) is being developed for NASA"s Instrument Incubator Program under the direction of the Langley Research Center. The objective of FIRST is to provide a balloon-based demonstration of the key technologies required for a space-based sensor. We discuss the FIRST Fourier transform spectrometer system (0.6 cm-1 unapodized resolution), along with radiometric calibration techniques in the spectral range from 10 to 100 μm (1000 to 100 cm-1). FIRST will incorporate a broad bandpass beamsplitter, a cooled (~180 K) high throughput optical system, and an image type detector system. The FIRST performance goal is a NEΔT of 0.2 K from 10 to 100 μm.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.