NASA help wanted: 'Planetary protection officer' to defend Earth from aliens
Published Wednesday, August 2, 2017 12:21PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 3, 2017 7:54AM EDT
How’s your shot with a ray gun? Can you pilot a spaceship? Do you speak Klingon, Kree, Kryptonian or heptapod as a second language?
Don’t worry if you don’t have the right answer to any of those questions. You still might be just the person NASA is looking for to protect the planet from extraterrestrial threats – if you’re an American citizen. And you could make a six-figure salary while doing it.
The U.S. space agency has posted a job opening for a new “planetary protection officer” to replace outgoing Earth defender Catharine Conley. It’s unclear why Conley is vacating the post, but the possibility that she’s joining the Guardians of the Galaxy is remote at best.
The incoming planetary protection officer will be expected to assume some hefty responsibilities pertaining to space exploration, including defending the Earth from alien organisms.
According to the NASA posting, the ideal candidate “is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.”
In other words, the planetary protection officer is responsible for keeping alien microbes and other contaminants from infecting astronauts or spreading back to Earth itself. They’re also in charge of making sure no killer space parasites, gooey black symbiotes or invisible super-plagues hitch a ride back to Earth with an unwitting astronaut.
The role also includes making sure that Earthly contaminants don’t spread to other worlds that NASA visits through human or robot exploration.
Science journalist Elizabeth Howell says the gig is actually more about protecting other planets from Earth, more so than protecting Earth from alien life. For example, she said the previous planetary protection officer was responsible for making sure the Curiosity Rover didn’t bring any contaminants with it on its mission to Mars.
“Even though we don’t think that there is any active life in the area (on Mars) where it is, they just want to be sure,” she told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. “And so they were sterilizing the spacecraft with advisement from the planetary protection officer.”
The official webpage for NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection says its purpose is to “promote the responsible exploration of the solar system by implementing and developing efforts that protect the science, explored environments, and the Earth.” Its objectives include preserving the ability to study other worlds in their natural states, avoiding biological contamination of other environments that might obscure the ability to find life, and taking precautions to ensure that Earth’s biosphere isn’t affected by potential extraterrestrial life.
The job is open to U.S. citizens, nationals or “those who owe allegiance to the U.S.,” according to the job posting site. Applicants should have a broad range of engineering expertise and a strong background in physical science.
The job pays between US$124,406 and $187,000 a year on an initial three-year term.
It also comes with secret security clearance.