NASA created the "planetary protection officer" position to defend Earth and the cosmos from alien contamination following the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. If that sounds like the science-fiction job of your dreams, congratulations, because you can now apply for it, Business Insider reports.
While "planetary protection officer" certainly seems more X-Files than real life, it assuredly is — and so is the salary, which ranges from $124,406 to $187,000 a year.
The creation of the position stems from Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty, which demands nations and parties exploring space "adopt appropriate measures" to "avoid [the] harmful contamination [of other planets] and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter." The agreement requires space missions to have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating another planet.
There are only two full-time planetary protection officer positions in the world — one at NASA, and the other at the European Space Agency. "This new job ad is a result of relocating the position I currently hold to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, which is an independent technical authority within NASA," said Catharine Conley, who has served as NASA's primary planetary protection officer since 2006.
Applicants must have "advanced knowledge" of planetary protections and a year of experience as a top-level civilian government employee. They additionally must have "demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance" and hold an advanced degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics.