NASA offering 6-figure salary for ‘planetary protection officer’

Bowen Xiao
By Bowen Xiao
August 2, 2017USshare
NASA offering 6-figure salary for ‘planetary protection officer’
The NASA logo on a protective box for a camera near the space shuttle Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 28, 2011. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ever wanted to protect Earth? You can now apply for a job with NASA as a “planetary protection officer.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking for someone to help defend the earth from contamination from microbes from other planets.

The role as a planetary protection officer involves the “avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration,” during space travel, according to NASA’s job description. 

NASA will ensure the person who gets the job is rewarded well for their efforts. The salary each year pays between $124,406 to $187,000.

There were misleading news reports saying, essentially, that the NASA job involves “defending Earth from aliens,” while invoking scenes from “Independence Day.”

“The Office of Planetary Protection is involved in many facets of mission development to prevent microbial contamination of other planets and our own,” Laurie Cantillo, who is the communications specialist in the planetary science division, told Gizmodo.

“If you have a sample return mission to Mars, you want to be careful in both directions,” Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in California, added to Gizmodo. “You want to be sure that anything you send to Mars doesn’t contaminate Mars with early bacteria, because what if we found life on Mars but it just turned out to be your neighbors? Sending pond scum to Mars would complicate the search for life there.”

Planetary protection officers get to occasionally travel to space centers around the world and analyze planet-bound robots. Their job is helping ensure the robot don’t contaminate the world our probe is landing on—or usually passing by and taking photos, according to Business Insider.

It’s also a chance to apply for one of the rarest jobs in the world, as only two such full-time jobs are offered in Earth: one is offered at NASA and the other at the European Space Agency.

According to the job description, the person hired is responsible for the leadership, maintenance, and oversight of planetary protection policies and capabilities that are implemented by NASA space flight missions.

“Frequent travel may be required” as well, the post stated.

But not just anyone can apply. You’ll need to have a unique set of certain skills, and you’ll have be someone who has a “secret” security clearance. In addition, you must have “advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection.”

Back in March President Donald Trump signed a bill titled “NASA Transition Authorization Act” that garnered strong bipartisan support and helps ensure NASA remains at the forefront of exploration and discovery.

In a tweet, Trump said he was honored to sign the bill.

“Honored to sign S.442 today. With this legislation, we support @NASA’s scientists, engineers, and astronauts in their pursuit of discovery!”

The job is open to the public so anyone can apply, including U.S. citizens and nationals.

Applications for the role last from July 13, through to August 14.


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