NASA has put up a job listing for a Planetary Protection Officer, and the job involves actual, practical duties that could adversely affect life forms on many bodies in the solar system. In The War of the Worlds by HG Wells, a Martian invasion of the Earth is stopped in its track by micro-organisms on Earth. The job of the Planetary Protection Officer is to prevent microorganisms from piggybacking on spacecraft returning to Earth from missions. So yes, in a way the job listing involves protecting the Earth from aliens.
An equally important part of the job is to protect other bodies in the solar system from contamination by micro-organisms from Earth. NASA makes sure that the interplanetary space probes are cleaned of any microorganisms, to prevent potential contamination of planets and moons in the solar system that can potentially harbour life. More information about Planetary Protection is available at the web site for NASA's Office of Planetary Protection.
NASA's space program attempts to protect all the planets in the solar system from harmful contamination, in line with US government regulations and international treaties. The Cassini spacecraft will end its mission by burning up in the atmosphere of Saturn, to prevent contamination of its moons, which could host life. There is not enough fuel left on the spacecraft for NASA to maintain control, which could mean Cassini could drift into one of the moons of Saturn.
Enceladus, one of the moons of Saturn, has almost all the ingredients necessary to support life as we know it on Earth. Cassini discovered plumes of water erupting from near the south pole of Enceladus, but did not have the necessary scientific instruments to detect life. Such instruments could be present on a future probe, which would required to be sanitised to prevent contamination of the moon. Titan, another moon of Saturn is believed to have molecules that could be a universal driver for prebiotic chemistry, the building blocks of more complex organic molecules that could have led to the earliest forms of life as it is known on Earth. While the Planetary Protection Officer will protect the Earth, the job requires protecting Enceladus and Titan as well.
Published Date: Aug 03, 2017 03:26 pm | Updated Date: Aug 03, 2017 03:26 pm