USA TODAY - Want to defend the planets in our solar system from alien life? You could apply for NASA's Planetary Protection Officer role!
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is currently looking for someone with a secret security clearance to ensure alien life, or "organic-constituent and biological contamination" doesn't make it's way onto in a space ship.
Generally, this 'alien life' doesn't come from Mars. In fact, it arrived on our planet long ago and can be found just about everywhere: bacteria.
You see, the Planetary Protection Officer is much less Men in Black, and much more an expert in microbiology and advanced equipment sanitation. Their main mission: to keep equipment that would travel to and from planets and celestial bodies from spreading microbes not native to those planets.
During the earlier years of space exploration in the 60s, the United States signed into a treaty with the United Nations called the Outer Space Treaty. One of the articles within that treaty requires any nation that pursues space travel to take measures to avoid harmful contamination of our planet and others.
Outside preventing infecting other planets with our own Earthly germs, the job plays a vital role in ensuring research is accurate for years to come when it comes to detecting life on other planets.
Imagine if a microbe from Earth that could survive harsh conditions found its way to the Mars Rover unbeknownst to NASA. If researchers were looking for life native to the planet Mars with that rover, the microbes from Earth would create false positives.
The result would sound like something out of a Twilight Zone ending: We were the aliens all along!
It's a difficult job that requires a meticulous attention to detail and a knack for planning, among other qualifications.
More than that, this person is "responsible for the leadership of NASA's planetary protection capability, maintenance of planetary protection policies, and oversight of their implementation by NASAs space flight missions," according to the job listing.
Candidates must have "advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection," experience overseeing nationally significant space programs and have demonstrated "skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussion." After all, protecting the planet is sure to present challenges.
That's a lot of responsibility for one person, which is why the job comes with a six-figure pay: $124,406 to $187,000 annually.
Thanks for keeping us and other planets safe, NASA.
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