"I may be nine but I think I would be fit for the job," wrote Jack Davis while applying for NASA's job listing for a Planetary Protection Officer. "My sister says I am an alien," was how Davis tried to explain his suitability for the position. NASA's Planetary Science Director, Jim Green wrote back to the child, encouraging Davis to study hard in preparation for a future career at NASA. NASA’s Planetary Research Director, Jonathan Rall also gave a phone call to encourage Davis and congratulating him for showing interest in the position.
Green commented about the incident by saying, "At NASA, we love to teach kids about space and inspire them to be the next generation of explorers. Think of it as a gravity assist — a boost that may positively and forever change a person's course in life, and our footprint in the universe.""
The job of the Planetary Protection Officer is to prevent contamination of the Earth from returning spaceprobes in interplanetary missions, that may have microorganisms that have stowed away on board. At the same time, it is the job of the Planetary Protection Officer to prevent contamination of the other planets and moons in the solar system, by making sure that all spacecraft leaving the planet for these missions are properly sterlised.
The impact of alien organisms in a foreign ecosystem can be potentially deadly to one or both species. Some of the moons of the gas giants are known to have many of the ingredients necessary to support life. While the job of the Planetary Protection Officer was reported by some sections of the media as a job that required the planet to be protected from aliens, the position requires protecting the entire solar system. NASA explained this aspect in the reply to Davis, which can be seen below.