Most earthlings would jump at the chance to meet aliens, but when entertaining aliens here on Earth, there might be some awkwardness, too. A few things might go unsaid — like, "Alien, you need a shower" or "Would you mind if we checked your spaceship for harmful bacteria?"
It’s an especially sensitive question considering aliens might already be trying to decide whether they should annihilate our civilization. But some hard truths need to be addressed. In fact, NASA is looking for someone to take it on as a full-time job.
The official job title is, "Planetary Protection Officer." Duties may read like rocket science because, well, NASA is into that sort of thing.
They include warding off "organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration."
The successful planetary defender will be responsible not just for our little blue pearl, but the rest of the solar system. We don’t want to infect other planets with our own superhardy variants on cooties.
Space bacteria could have a devastating impact on humanity. Whether it’s a microbe or virus, our immune systems wouldn’t stand a chance against something we’ve never encountered before. That explains why even the robots we send to other planets are baked, steamed and bathed in pure alcohol to the extremes of sterility.
These space probes don’t want to catch anything cataclysmically contagious — nor do they want to bring Earth-borne microbes to other planets where they could wreak havoc on their environments.
The solar system may seem like a grand responsibility, but NASA is offering stellar compensation — annual salary is pegged at between $124,406 and $187,000.
Of course, it’s unlikely the planetary defender will ever have to insist that aliens use a hand wipe before shaking hands with humans. Advanced beings, we imagine, would know a thing or two about the mayhem-causing potential of microbes.
But if they should happen to show up bearing bugs and bacteria, who will say these hard truths?
Well, that could be you. So suit up — it's time to do your part to save the planet.