It's every astronomer's worst nightmare: a future crewed mission to Mars or even beyond goes terribly awry when astronauts contaminate another planet with destructive microbes from Earth, devastating any hint of life that could be thriving elsewhere in the solar system.
Enter the planetary protection officer (PPO), who is tasked with preventing biological contamination during missions between planets.
NASA is currently on the hunt for its next PPO, who will be paid nearly $190,000 to maintain federal and international standards governing space exploration.
The PPO will join NASA's Office of Planetary Protection and work to prevent "biological contamination of explored environments that may obscure our ability to find life elsewhere" and "ensure that we take prudent precautions to protect Earth's biosphere in case life does exist elsewhere."
The space agency has outlined strict guidelines for its next hire. Applicants should come ready to play with an advanced degree in science or mathematics and experience planning and executing space programs on a national level, according to a job posting.
The ideal applicant, who must be able to obtain a secret security clearance, should also have experience with diplomacy in "complex, multi-lateral discussions."
United States citizens and nationals are eligible for the position.
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