Relax! NASA hiring a planetary protection officer is not hinting at an alien invasion
It's not even a new position.
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It’s difficult to decide which one is more bizarre: Amit Shah declaring the need for a cow ministry, or NASA looking to hire a planetary protection officer. Yes, you heard it right.
Didn’t we have enough things to worry about on Earth with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) – the American space organisation – now making us nervous with a new post that is literally in charge of protecting the planet from extraterrestrial beings?
It’s almost like everyone on Game of Thrones worried about wars and suddenly being told that petty human wars won’t mean much when the White Walkers attack.
The planetary protection officer, according to reports, will lead the agency's efforts to keep its spacecraft and astronauts from contaminating worlds with life-forms that don't belong there.
NASA officials have stressed that keeping Earth clean of “alien microbes” that might contaminate our planet via sample-return capsule is their highest priority. But apart from that they are also responsible for cleaning up extraterrestrial debris. Other duties include advising safety mission assurance officials on planetary protection matters and ensuring compliance by robotic and human spaceflight missions.
"NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all spaceflight 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. This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements,” says the official job description.
And it pays handsomely as well. After all, if you are going to protect the planet, you certainly can’t be expected to do it for cheap. Salary can range between $124,000 (Rs 78,98,924) and $187,000 (Rs 1,19,12,087) annually and one can be hired on a three- to five-year contract. In case you are interested, you can apply for the position till August 14.
What is fascinating is that the planetary protection officer role is not a new one – in fact, it comes at the requirement of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 of the United Nations, called for space-faring nations to take care about contaminants.
Cassie Conley has been NASA's planetary protection officer for several years now. The new posting is a result of relocating the position to NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, Conley told Business Insider.
NASA may take space contaminants seriously but do US politicians? Recently, US Vice President Mike Pence, while visiting the Kennedy Space Center in Florida when placed his hand on a piece of hardware - despite a large sign that read "do not touch". He later apologised to NASA on Twitter, joking that Florida Senator Marco Rubio "dared" him to do it.
Alien invasions may be low on the priority of the officer, but with how things are right now, how much worse could it be?