Really? Oh, it’s real.
NASA is seeking a “Planetary Protection Officer,” pay scale & grade SL 00 (that’s an SES position), salary $124,406 to $187,000 per year.
“SES” means Senior Executive Service, the civilian equivalent to a general officer in the military. It’s not a red Swingline in the basement position.
Advises the Chief, [Safety and Mission Assurance] and other officials regarding the merit and implications of programmatic decisions involving risks to planetary protection objectives.
If it were any clearer, the position might be for Starfleet or the First Order, not NASA. Fire up the turbo lasers, load photon torpedoes, how many Star Destroyers do we have available to repel the invasion?
But, really? No.
It’s a much more mundane, but apparently insanely valuable to some government people in the space business, position.
The Planetary Protection office argues that since no Earth organism has ever been exposed to Martian organisms, they have no resistance to Martian pathogens. They claim that if an object returned to Earth from Mars, it could potentially destroy the entire terrestrial biosphere.
There you go. If there’s life on Mars, we could end up like the Aztecs when Hernan Cortés visited. He didn’t slaughter them, but smallpox, measles and mumps did. Dr. Robert Zubrin told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the position was just “another useless overpaid bureaucrat.”
“The program says that it needs to protect Mars and Earth from ‘contaminating’ each other, but the fact of the matter is that there is not one shred of evidence to support the notion that life of any kind, let alone pathogens of macrofauna or macroflora, or free-living microbes with superior adaptation to the terrestrial environment than native species, exists on the Martian surface,” Zubrin said. “There can’t be, because the Martian surface is bathed in sterilizing UV light, has no liquid water, and contains peroxides that are fatal to microorganisms.”
In other words, there’s nothing on Mars that could infect Earth.
Zubrin argues that if Martian microorganisms exist, Earth has almost certainly already been exposed to them. He states that fear of back contamination is greatly hampering NASA’s attempts to land missions on the moon and Mars.
But there’s a policy between the ESA and NASA that forces the agencies to consider the highly, extremely, impossibly unlikely event of a Martian microbe destroying all life on earth, and take measures to stop it. And that effort requires someone to lead the paper chase and billions of dollars to ensure that no Marvin-the-Martian Cortés hitches a ride back to Earth.
“In light of the above, the planetary protectors also need to explain why building a Maginot Line around NASA’s tiny 500 gram sample is a worthwhile activity while Mother Nature, laughing at their quarantine orders, continues to deliver thousands of kilograms of uninspected and unsterilized materials, both ways,” Zubrin said.
In other words: s**t happens, even in space. And certainly, some of the Martian s**t has hit Earth’s fan by now. So why are we spending money on a mall cop for the planet?
Because it’s government.