An engineering model of SHERLOC, one the instruments onboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover.
Mars 2020's SHERLOC Instrument: A close-up view of an engineering model of SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals), one the instruments aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Full image and caption ›


The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals has a nickname: SHERLOC. Mounted on the rover's robotic arm, SHERLOC uses cameras, spectrometers, and a laser to search for organics and minerals that have been altered by watery environments and may be signs of past microbial life. In addition to its black-and-white context camera, SHERLOC is assisted by WATSON, a color camera for taking close-up images of rock grains and surface textures.

Tech Specs

Main Job Fine-scale detection of minerals, organic molecules and potential biosignatures
Location Mounted on the turret at the end of the robotic arm

6.86 pounds
(3.11 kilograms)

3.55 pounds
(1.61 kilograms) body


32.2 watts

16.6 watts


10.2 by 7.8 by 2.6 inches
(26.0 by 20.0 by 6.7 centimeters)

Data Return 79.7 Mbits (raw)
Spatial Resolution

2 Cameras

Autofocus and Context Imager:
10.1 micrometers

WATSON Camera:
15.9 micrometers

1 Laser:
100 micrometers

Field of View

0.9 to 0.5 inches
(2.3 by 1.5 centimeters)

7 by 7 millimeters
(0.275 inch)

"Key, driving questions are whether Mars is or was ever inhabited, and if not, why not? The SHERLOC investigation will advance the understanding of Martian geologic history and identify its past biologic potential."
- Luther Beegle, Principal Investigator

5 Things to Know


SHERLOC Works All Shifts
SHERLOC operates day or night.


SHERLOC: No Touch Required
Perseverance places SHERLOC about two inches above its target to gather data. That way, it is close, but doesn't contaminate the scene of the investigation.


SHERLOC Has an Eye for Detail
SHERLOC has a magnifying glass just like the fictional detective to see fine detail.


SHERLOC Collects Clues
SHERLOC uses ultraviolet laser light to spot organic chemicals in much the same way modern crime scene investigators look for forensic clues.


SHERLOC Tests Spacesuits
SHERLOC carries small pieces of spacesuit material. It targets them to test its accuracy and to see how they hold up in the harsh Martian environment.

The Story Behind the Name

Sherlock Holmes was a fictional detective who solved crimes. He used forensic methods. These include scientific observation and powers of logical reasoning. SHERLOC observes and measures too. It will look for possible evidence of past life on Mars - if any microbes ever existed.

Dr. John H. Watson was Holmes' partner in solving mysteries. WATSON the camera assists SHERLOC as it helps solve mysteries about life on Mars.

With its camera sidekick WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering), SHERLOC even has a modern version of the hand-lens magnifying glass used by the classic British detective!