NASA is recruiting someone to protect Earth from alien contamination – and the perks are out of this world. Not only will the successful candidate earn the esteemed job title of "planetary protection officer" but they will also receive a salary of up to $187k (around £141k), plus benefits.
But the job's probably not for you if you prefer an easy life. It will also involve ensuring that Earth doesn't contaminate the alien worlds we're trying to explore, Business Insider reported. Other space agencies employ people to do a similar role, but the NASA post is one of just two full-time positions in the world – the other being at the European Space Agency.
"Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration," the job spec reads. The post was created after the US signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which pledged to study and explore outer space while avoiding "harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.”
The candidate will be responsible for implementing policies during NASA space flight missions which "may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies," as well as "any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration.”
The successful candidate can hold the post for three years, with the possibility of a two-year extension, and they would work from Earth to guard against potential contamination from planets like Mars, which scientists have suggested was possibly once covered in water and able to support life. The planetary protection officer would need to protect us from any life that may exist on the red planet now.
Candidates must be US citizens or US nationals and have at least a year's experience in a top-level civilian governmental role, an advanced degree in physical science, engineering or mathematics, and “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection. We would hope so.
They also need to show leadership and diplomacy skills that will come in handy "during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions”. So before you get cracking on your application, it's probably worth taking some time to planet.