There is a Nasa project in the Atacama Desert. Here, the soil is so dry conditions are as close as you can get to those on Mars. To test for signs of life, the scientists soak the desert soil with nutrient soup to see if they get a reaction. Then they repeat with anti-soup - the same stuff, but made from mirror molecules. If the soil reacts the same way to both, biology can be ruled out as the cause.
So Pauline suggested we do an experiment with a bowl of anti-soup, dropping in various microbes to see whether some of them multiply. Known life would find anti-soup unpalatable, but it might be manna to a mirror microbe. The experiment is now under way at Nasa's Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Huntsville is a start. But if NASA is serious about its "search for life" on Mars and other planetary bodies, it would seem this elegant experiment would have found its way aboard a rover or lander by now.
JPL's next-generation Mars rovers are as big as minivans -- certainly room enough to accommodate the space agency's mission statement. But, strangely enough, they aren't equipped with the simplest life-detection equipment. This oversight demands revision, if for no other reason than to determine what exactly the Viking landers detected in the 1970s.