Role involves safeguarding Earth from extra-terrestrial infection, and stopping other planets being contaminated by robotic or human explorers
Nasa is looking for a planetary protection officer who will help safeguard Earth from alien bacteria.
No, it isnt the script of an elaborate science fiction film, but an actual job advertisement on the US governments website.
According to the site, the unusual role involves creating policies to ensure the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.
The job description says the three-year position involves frequent travel and comes with an annual handsome salary of up to $187,000 (141,000). The roles security clearance level is secret.
The successful candidate, who must be a US citizen or national and hold a degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics, will make sure that no microbial life travels from Earth to infect other planets, and vice versa.
The planetary protection officer will oversee 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, the ad says.
The ad was created on 13 July but this week started to gain more attention after it was posted on Twitter, prompting a slew of mildly amusing jokes and faux job applications.
The job was created in 1967 in order to make the US compliant with the International Outer Space Treaty.
In 2014, Catherine Conley, the current previous planetary protection officer, told Scientific American that one of her concerns was that humans travelling to Mars could contaminate the planet if they died there.
She said it was important not to pollute other planets and repeat the mistakes humans have made on Earth.
If you wanted to drill into an aquifer on Mars, it would be in the interest of future colonists that you keep the drilling clean because organisms can grow in the aquifer and change the conditions so that it is no longer available. Weve seen that happen on Earth. That would be really unfortunate.