NASA Employs Someone To Protect Earth From Aliens — Yes, For Real

Drop everything you're doing; NASA needs your help. The space agency is looking to hire a full-time planetary protection officer to help protect the Earth from aliens. Apparently, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are busy.

E.T. Need Not Apply

To be fair, the role of NASA's planetary protection officer is less like "Men In Black" than the incredible image in our heads. See for yourself — according to the job listing, this position "is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration. NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration."

In plain English, this person will make sure humans don't screw up any extraterrestrial worlds with our Earthly stuff, and will make sure nothing we bring back from space contaminates Earth. Shooting down green-skinned Martians descending onto our planet's surface? Not so much. Catharine Conley, NASA's only planetary protection officer since 2014, told Business Insider that a typical workweek involves a lot of emailing and reading studies, proposals, and other materials. Not so glamorous, but at least you'll avoid a Ridley Scott's "Alien"-type situation. Probably.

Protect Ya 'Net

According to Conley, there are only two full-time planetary protection officers on Earth: one at NASA, and another at the European Space Agency. Oh, and it pays well. The salary for this job ranges from $124,406 to $187,000 per year, plus benefits. Before you get too excited, though, scan the requirements. Needless to say, extraterrestrial monitoring demands an extraordinary resume. It's a rare position, but it's not brand new. It was created after the signing of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which states that any space mission must have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world. "It's a moderate level," Conley told Business Insider. "It's not extremely careful, but it's not extremely lax." That's why part of the responsibilities for this role include travel to other agencies to make sure missions are meeting standards like these.

As NASA continues to push forth into the unexplored frontier of space, this position will prove to be of paramount importance. Not to be too dramatic, but THE SAFETY AND SURVIVAL OF THE HUMAN RACE DEPENDS ON IT. NASA has deep space on the brain, and is set to explore Jupiter's moon Europa, which may be habitable, with the Europa Clipper mission in the 2020s. The agency's journey to Mars via the Space Launch System (SLS) is on the menu relatively soon too. Get your application in, we've got planet-protectin' to do.

Keeping the Solar System Clean to Find Alien Life

Written by Joanie Faletto August 3, 2017

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