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04 August 2017

Why does Earth need a ‘planetary protection officer’?

Want to protect the world and space? NASA has the job just for you Picture: NASA/AFP

THE pay is decent, the rewards are huge and there’s frequent travel involved.

Actually it’s pretty fair to say this job is out of this world.

NASA is on the hunt for a planetary protection officer and while it may sound like a bit of a joke at first it’s actually a pretty serious position.

Offering pay up to $225,000 the job requires the successful applicant to defend Earth from alien contamination.

The successful must also be able to help stem the spread of extraterrestrial debris when spacecraft return from space.

Initially offered as a three-year role, there is the possibility it will be extended by two years.

The NASA job probably won’t involve chasing many aliens.

The NASA job probably won’t involve chasing many aliens.Source:News Corp Australia

Unsurprisingly, applicants are expected to have an advanced knowledge of planetary protection too.

But Aussie alien hunter seeking a chance may be disappointed as the role is only open to US citizens and nationals.

Realising there was a lot of buzz about the role, NASA released a bit of an explainer video revealing a little more about what exactly the job entails.

NASA Planetary Protection Officer Catherine Conley said it wasn’t just about protecting Earth.

She said it was about “protecting our own precious home, and protecting the undiscovered country that we are now pioneering from any harmful contamination we could introduce.”

In other words, the successful applicant will be responsible for protecting plants from “organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.”

Whether a rover landing on a distant world to robotic probes skimming the surface of liquid spewing moons, the role is certainly varied.

According to the job listing the successful applicant will be “responsible for the leadership of NASA’s planetary protection capability, maintenance of planetary protection policies, and oversight of their implementation by NASA’s space flight missions.

But it isn’t just about protecting our own planet and as Ms Conley points out: “The office of Planetary Protection strives to protect all of the planets all of the time.”

NASA stress the role is vital as mankind must remain vigilant and prevent bacteria from Earth invading other areas of space and vice versa, pointing out how it has already happened with various species on Earth.

The role generated a bit of buzz on Twitter with apparently keen to put their hat in the ring or amused by the role.

debra.killalea@news.com.au

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