NASA wants somebody to take responsibility for keeping Earth – and other planets — safe. The Planetary Protection Officer will earn up to $187,000 a year.
The job isn’t so much about zapping incoming aliens. Rather it’s about making sure that space missions don’t contaminate Earth with organic or biological material from other planets and bodies, and vice versa.
It’s largely an executive position, with the Planetary Protection Officer responsible for developing policy and making decisions about matter such as how close an exploratory craft that might be contaminated with Earth’s bacteria can fly to the surface of another planet. The role also includes coordinating efforts with other countries and agencies.
Catherine Conley, who is the incumbent in the role, told the New York Times that it’s not just about damaging planets, but also compromising scientific work: “If we’re going to look for life on Mars, it would be really kind of lame to bring Earth life and find that instead.”
As well as an science, engineering or mathematics degree, the successful candidate will need “Advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection”, “demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance” and “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.”