The job has been described as ‘“Men in Black’ minus the Ray-Bans.”
A woman named Catharine A. Conley currently holds the job, so this is not a fake story from the Onion.
NASA is hiring a planetary protection officer, a job that comes with an salary of $124,406 to $187,000, plus benefits, according to the help-wanted listing at USAJobs.com.
Security clearance? “Secret.”
The mission: defend the earth from aliens, but not like Will Smith in either “Men in Black” or “Independence Day.” The job, alas, doesn’t come with special effects.
The planetary protection officer is responsible for making sure astronauts and robots don’t contaminate planets and moons and other extraterrestrial objects we come in contact with in space, explains Business Insider.
Part of the job entails visiting space centers around the world and analyzing space-bound robots to make sure they don’t accidentally contaminate a pristine environment when they land or take photos or, heaven forbid, crash land somewhere.
Vice versa, this outer-space safety compliance officer also make sure humans don’t bring back alien microbes or other biological contamination from space travel that could infect the Earth.
In other words, they protect the earth from “aliens” and other planets from earthlings.
Only two full-time planetary protection officers exist now, at NASA and the European Space Agency, according to Business Insider.
“This new job ad is a result of relocating the position I currently hold to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, which is an independent technical authority within NASA,” Catharine Conley, NASA’s only planetary protection officer since 2014, told Business Insider.
She did not say whether she planned to reapply for the gig, which typically lasts three to five years.
The job was created after the United States ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which governs how we act in outer space, on the moon and other planets when we’re there exploring and studying, for required peaceful purposes.
“If we’re going to bring samples back from another location (Mars, etc.) to the Earth, we don’t want to bring any potentially hazardous organisms that might be present in those locations,” Conley said in a 2014 interview with GenConnect.
And when we travel to other planets?
“There is life everywhere on Earth, and if we want to go to these other planets, we want to study the life that’s there and not the life that we brought with us,” she told GenConnect.
She admitted that as Hollywood as the job title sounds – two years ago The Weather Network described Conley as “one lone woman with a mission to protect the universe ... from Earth” – the work can be mundane, reading lots of emails, studies and proposals.
The job listing says candidates must have “broad engineering expertise” and should be an expert in “Planetary Protection.”
Applications are being accepted until Aug. 14.