Grab your blaster; NASA needs a Planetary Protection Officer (11 Photos)


Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? While there are thousands of US government scientists that are working hard to protect the public from harm from the things on Earth, such as infectious diseases, food supply issues and finding a cure for cancer, AIDs and old age, there’s also a dusty corner of NASA that’s worried about what’s going to come from space. Which is why they’ve just listed a job posting for a Planetary Protection Officer. While you think it might be cool tech, exo-suits, a laser gun and a chance to take out aliens if they come knocking, it’s actually a lot more simple than that.The job is more like this. Ok, not really. It’s more of a desk job, where the aim is to help defend Earth from alien contamination, and help us to prevent ourselves from contaminating other worlds. While that might sound less exciting than joining the Men in Black, it does come with some perks – 6 figure perks. The job lists a salary of $125-$187K per year for the job, plus benefits.You in? Currently, most space agencies have a part time or a shared planetary protection officer, but this job needs dedication. There are currently only two people on the planet that are doing this full time – one for NASA and one for the European Space Agency (ESA). The gig at NASA is currently held by Catharine Conley, who’s been doing the job since 2014. She’s relocating to a new position in the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, so there’s a vacancy. Someone’s gotta keep this planet safe. This particular position has been in place since the US and the UN ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, that ensured that we avoid “harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.”Since then, all the global agencies have agreed that any space mission must have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world, and several precautions are taken to ensure that the stuff we send into space is a clean from Earth-based microbes and bacteria as it can be. This is why NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer would need to travel to space centres all over the world to analyze planet-bound robots to make sure we’re not accidentally contaminating another world, by zooming by, landing or even by photographing. For example, NASA’s just been given the green light to explore Europa, an icy, possibly oceanic and potentially habitable moon of Jupiter. While the robot won’t be landing on the moon, it could accidentally crash land as it maps the surface, and Conley’s current job it to make sure there’s no risks to the Moon.