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The Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on the Earth Observing System (EOS) Aqua satellite was launched on May 4, 2002. The AMSR-E instrument provides a potentially improved soil moisture sensing capability over previous spaceborne radiometers such as the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer and Special Sensor Microwave/Imager due to its combination of low frequency and higher spatial resolution (approximately 60 km at 6.9 GHz). The AMSR-E soil moisture retrieval approach and its implementation are described in this paper. A postlaunch validation program is in progress that will provide evaluations of the retrieved soil moisture and enable improved hydrologic applications of the data. Key aspects of the validation program include assessments of the effects on retrieved soil moisture of variability in vegetation water content, surface temperature, and spatial heterogeneity. Examples of AMSR-E brightness temperature observations over land are shown from the first few months of instrument operation, indicating general features of global vegetation and soil moisture variability. The AMSR-E sensor calibration and extent of radio frequency interference are currently being assessed, to be followed by quantitative assessments of the soil moisture retrievals.