NASA Is Looking For a 'Planetary Protection Officer'

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Recently NASA posted a job offer on USAjobs.gov for a position that some are calling out of this world.

If hired, the space administration's new Planetary Protection Officer will have the responsibility of protecting Earth from aliens. Well, not necessarily aliens, but alien microbes that may be harmful to us.

The position was posted on July 13, set at a whopping six-figure annual salary ranging between $124,406 and $187,000. In addition to protecting the Earth from microbial contamination from the alien environments, the Planetary Protection Officer will also be responsible for defending other terrestrial bodies from our own Earthly microbes.

While such a full-time position is a new thing for space exploration, several planetary protection officers exist on a part-time basis for several different space agencies. NASA's current PPO is Dr. Catharine Conley, who has lead the Office of Planetary Protection since 2006. Conley is relocating to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, leaving the PPO position open.

Conley spoke with Business Insider in 2015 about the impacts of alien microbes, and ways her office works to ward off alien contamination on our planet as well as Earth-based microbes on others. 

The job itself may read like something out of a sci-fi thriller, but the responsibilities of the PPO aren't as Hollywood-esque as you might imagine. Although it's fun to dream of the PPO boarding spaceships and thwarting alien invasions, their role is much more scientific, according to the job posting:

Planetary protection 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 systems bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration. This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.

The new job comes with a long list of skills and requirements, meaning your Average Joe has no shot -- unless they can figure out how to earn a science degree, obtain years of experience, and score a high-level security clearance before the job listing closes on August 14.

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