As children, many of us have been fascinated by the outer space and the vast unexplored world that it represents. What added to our imagination were films like Men In Black, Independence Day, E.T. and so on. And central to these fictional narratives was NASA.
So imagine what happened when NASA announced a vacancy for the Planetary Protection Officer. Sounds like something right out of a sci-fi film doesn’t it?
The position sure sounds like you’d be defending our planet against all kinds of aliens, but it’s not exactly that. “Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration,” reads the advertisement.
“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,” it adds.
Essentially, it means that this Officer will have the very important duty of ensuring that spacecrafts from Earth do not contaminate other planetary systems or life out there. Conversely, the Officer would also have to ensure that the spacecrafts do not carry with them extraterrestrial pathogens of harmful elements back to Earth.
So you may not be donning a cape and fighting against aliens with cool weapons but this is still pretty cool if you ask us. And the candidate will draw a salary of $124,406 to $187,000 per year too!
The US government's official employment site advertised the job which is open to US citizens and nationals for applications until August 14.
However, this did not stop social media users from pulling out all the alien puns and references they could muster! Check some of them out here:
"Oh you're a CEO? That's terrific. I'm the Planetary Protection Officer.I'm in charge or protecting Earth, maybe you've heard of it."— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) August 1, 2017
Oh and, there were a few people rooting for Will Smith. He is, after all, the most experienced of the lot.
And then there was this dreamer.
@NASA If aliens are real (and if their friendly) would it be okay for them to fall in love with a human? And make human/alien babies?— Space Queen Cherry (@naimamuhammad53) July 30, 2017
Arguably, the most adorable applicant was a 9-year-old boy from New Jersey who wrote to NASA saying that since he was the ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’, he had got this Planetary Protection Officer thing figured to the T.
"My name is Jack Davis and I would like to apply for the planetary protection officer job. I may be nine but I think I would be fit for the job. One of the reasons is my sister says I am an alien. Also, I have seen the show Marvel Agents of Shield and hope to see the movie Men in Black," Jack wrote in his letter. “I am young so I can learn to think like an alien,” reads his last line.
The letter was posted by a friend of Jack’s father’s on Reddit, and it will make you go ‘awww.’ Read it here.
The letter must have worked its magic because NASA's Planetary Science Director Jim Green wrote back to Jack.
Jim lauded Jack for his ambition and then said,
"Our Planetary Protection Officer position is really cool and is very important work. It's about protecting Earth from tine microbes when we bring back samples from the Moon, asteroids and Mars. It's also about protecting other planets and moons from our germs as we responsibly explore the Solar System.
"We are always looking for bright future scientists and engineers to help us, so I hope you will study hard and do well in school. We hope to see you here at NASA one of these days!"
What’s more, Jack even received a phone call from NASA's Planetary Research Director, Jonathan Rall from NASA Headquarters in Washington, to congratulate him on his interest in the position.
(with IANS inputs)