Every day, hundreds of thousands of people get up and go to jobs that keep the rest of us safe from harm: firefighters, health inspectors, engineers, and more.
And right now, NASA has what might be the king of safety jobs open to applicants.
Position at NASA: planetary protection officer.
Pay: $187,000 a year.
Purpose: To protect the Earth from alien lifeforms.
The role was quietly posted on USA Jobs last month.
Whoever steps into this job would be in charge of making sure astronauts, robots, and spacecraft don't track microbes and other biological contamination back to Earth or around the solar system with them.
This means keeping aliens from coming to Earth and preventing Earth life from escaping to where it doesn't belong. Microbes are hardy little things, and contamination could throw off our search for life in the universe — not to mention affect any life that is out there.
Whoever takes this job will definitely have a busy next few years.
NASA has the Mars 2020 rover and the Europa Clipper mission in the works. Both Mars and Europa have been the target of intense speculation about extraterrestrial life — Mars deep under its soil and Europa in its subsurface ocean. The planetary protection officer would no doubt play a key role in those missions.
If you're thinking of applying, you should probably know the planetary protection officer job comes with some hefty qualifications, including an advanced STEM degree and experience planning space programs. It's also U.S. citizens only (sorry, Canada).
Thanks to all those firefighters and engineers, we have a safe and comfortable society. Thanks to whoever takes this job, we'll have a safe planet (and solar system) too.