Yes, you read that right, NASA is hiring a space cop to keep us safe from a possible alien invasion, and the new position comes with a handsome compensation: $187,000 per year.
The ‘planetary protection officer’ will have to ensure that the planet is not contaminated by microorganisms coming from alien worlds during space missions, but he or she will also have to make sure that alien worlds are not contaminated by Earth when humans go on an exploration trip.
Former Planetary Protection Officer Michael Meyer provided more details on what the new position means. Meyer is now working with NASA for its Mars Exploration Program.
He noted that when astronauts bring alien samples back home there is a chance they would be returning with a living organism from a neighboring planet. In that case, they must be cautious and contain the samples until a team of experts determines if they are hazardous or not for our ecosystem.
“[T]he very nature of the job is that you have to be conservative,”
Space Cops Must Ensure Alien Worlds Are Safe from Us Too
On the other hand, researchers hunting for alien life wouldn’t want to think a bug from Earth is some extraordinary alien life form from another planet. This is why planetary protection officers must ensure that spacecrafts are clean enough so that they don’t contaminate alien worlds with homegrown organisms.
The planetary protection officer will need a dash of diplomacy too for his role. He will have to negotiate with foreign governments that run space programs the terms of space missions. The European Space Agency has hired a space cop too, but other countries such as China and Russia have not.
Meyer underlined that it is not NASA’s business to tell other nations how to conduct their space exploration programs. But when the U.S. is collaborating with foreign space agencies some precautionary measures need to be taken to ensure everyone is exploring safely.
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