Looking for a fresh career challenge? NASA is searching for a planetary protection officer to protect Earth from extraterrestrial contamination.
While the job title may conjure up images of Will Smith in “Independence Day,” the role, which has a salary of up to $187,000 a year, requires a very unique set of scientific skills.
Part of the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance for Planetary Protection, the job involves “avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration,” according to the intriguing job description posted on usajobs.gov.
In addition to safeguarding samples from “extraterrestrial targets” that are brought back to Earth, the planetary protection officer will also be responsible for preventing contamination from “Earth organisms and organic constituents” on missions into space.
The successful candidate will lead efforts to ensure that robotic and human space missions comply with federal and international standards on how space matter is handled.
The planetary protection officer will also lead coordination efforts with interactions with the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), National Academies, and advisory committees on planetary protection matters, according to the job description.
The job will be based at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
NASA is gearing up for a host of space exploration over the coming years, which includes the launch of its InSight mission to Mars in 2018 and a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa in the 2020s. NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
The space agency’s efforts to protect Earth continues to be a source of fascination. Last year, for example, NASA opened its Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO) to track asteroids and comets that come too close to Earth.
NASA has been studying Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) since the 1970s. According to the PDCO, NASA-funded survey projects have found more than 95 percent of the known catalogue of over 15,000 NEOs.