Yes, it’s a real position, and it reports to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance for Planetary Protection. It also pays pretty well: more than six figures.
But for those getting their inner Sigourney Weaver all Ripleyed up, it’s not about staving off aliens with big teeth, enemy warships or even errant asteroids.
It’s a job to make sure we don’t send organic contamination off to other planets, and maybe more importantly, to make sure we don’t bring anything back.
The position was created in 1967 when the U.S., Soviet Union and other countries signed the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.”
Also known as the Outer Space Treaty, this is the same document that says we won’t put nuclear weapons on the moon, for instance.
The job description says, “NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight 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.”
If interested, the job is for three years, with the possibility of a two-year extension. It’s open to U.S. citizens and U.S. nationals, and has a salary range of $124,406 to $187,000. It’s a full-time gig.
You can see the posting at USAJobs.gov.