The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is looking to hire its first-ever Planetary Protection Officer to protect against any alien life that might hitch a ride back to Earth on one of our spacecrafts. The agency will pay handsomely, too. America’s first Planetary Protection Officer will make anywhere from $124,406 to $187,000 annually.
Potential applicants don’t need a Master’s degree for the job, though one in the physical sciences is preferred. A Bachelor’s degree in engineering, math, physics, or something similar is the only necessary education. Experience requirements are much tougher, though; a Planetary Protection Officer needs “demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance,” as well as “advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection, its requirements and mission categories.” (For that second criterion, having seen Instertellar may or may not suffice.)
The job description alludes to concerns with microscopic bits of matter, and not necessarily the high-level alien organisms that Americans are accustomed to seeing in movies like Men in Black or Arrival.
NASA isn’t going hunting for alien life, but knows that tiny bits of matter – alive or not – could attach itself to anything we launch into space. They wants to preemptively avoid disrupting our ecosystem here on Earth, as well as avoid sending any life forms from Earth into whatever other ecosystems may exist outside of our planet.
Since it is unknown what alien life looks like, this person would be searching for something quite literally undefined.
Whoever holds this unique job will boast either the least-stressful or most-stressful job on the face of the planet. Either there is no extra-terrestrial life, in which case the job is painfully simple, or there are aliens out there, and the job is responsible for liaising with life forms the likes of which we have never before encountered. If the position mirrors the latter, I’m not sure that a salary of $124k will cut it.
Every other government function is dictated by protocol. State dinners, negotiations, U.N. activities and more all have their own sets of rules. However, since contact has never before been made with aliens, there is no protocol for how to approach them. The Planetary Protection Officer could literally write the rulebook for one of the most important activities in the history of the human species. (Add NYT best seller to list of job descriptions.)
Despite the hilarity of it all, NASA is wise to protect our fragile ecosystem from foreign matter. If aliens are out there, hopefully they’re friendly, or better yet, they choose not to contact us at all. Then the Planetary Protection Officer will have a pretty easy job.