The LIDAR instrument operating from the surface of Mars on the Phoenix Mission measured vertical profiles of atmospheric dust and water ice clouds at temperatures around -65 °C. An equivalent lidar system was utilized for measurements in the atmosphere of Earth where dust and cloud conditions are similar to Mars. Coordinated aircraft in situ sampling provided a verification of lidar measurement and analysis methods and also insight for interpretation of lidar derived optical parameters in terms of the dust and cloud microphysical properties. It was found that the vertical distribution of airborne dust above the Australian desert is quite similar to what is observed in the planetary boundary layer above Mars. Comparison with the in situ sampling is used to demonstrate how the lidar derived optical extinction coefficient is related to the dust particle size distribution. The lidar measurement placed a constraint on the model size distribution that has been used for Mars. Airborne lidar measurements were also conducted to study cirrus clouds that form in the Earth's atmosphere at a similar temperature and humidity as the clouds observed with the lidar on Mars. Comparison with the in situ sampling provides a method to derive the cloud ice water content (IWC) from the Mars lidar measurements.