When we heard that NASA has an opening for a Planetary Protection Officer, our thoughts immediately drifted to alien-smiting technocrats like the Men in Black or Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day — brave souls laying it all down in the line of duty to keep us safe from nefarious galactic forces.
So typical of us earthlings to think only of our way of life.
In reality, the job is as much about protecting other planets from us as it is protecting us from them. And when it comes to the recon part of the job — like Frank the Pug told Jay and Kay — the big threat is more than likely something very small: a virus or bacteria transferred via dust particles. That means studying a lot of space matter under a microscope, as well investigating bodies like Mars and Europa (one of Jupiter’s moons) for signs of water and life (probably because of this).
The candidate needs advanced degrees in physical sciences, engineering and math as well as a background in top-level government service. It’s also highly likely that the job will be awarded to someone already at NASA (hence why you missed it on Linkedin).
The job was created as part of the Outer Space Protection Treaty of 1967, and the only other of its kind is held in Europe. It comes with a six-figure salary ($124,000-$187,000) and high-level government clearance. But you can only hold it for three years.
Would-be world savers better act fast: they won’t take submissions after August 14.