nasa center
August 7, 2017

Fourth grader applies to become NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer

When NASA announced recently that it was seeking applicants for a new Planetary Protection Officer position – someone to keep Earth safe from alien microbes and other worlds from being contaminated by terrestrial organisms – there was no doubt that it would draw lots of interest.

Among those who took the time to apply for the position was a nine-year-old New Jersey boy who, according to the Washington Post, sent a hand-written application to the agency laying out his qualifications and explaining why he would be a good fit for the job.

The youngster, whose name is Jack Davis, told NASA that he was the perfect choice to be the new Planetary Protection Officer because his sister said that he was an alien, and that he had seen “almost all the space and alien moves I can,” though he confessed to not yet having seen “Men in Black” – a film which, as the newspaper noted, came out a decade before he was even born.

In addition, Jack bolsters his case by telling the agency that he his great at video games, and that since he is young, he believes that he can “learn to think like an alien.” He finished his letter with his signature, an appended it with the title “Guardian of the Galaxy” and “Fourth Grade.”

NASA responds to the nine-year-old ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’

Naturally, such a painstakingly prepared application merited a response from NASA, who sent a letter back to Jack. “I hear you are a ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’ and that you’re interested in being a NASA Planetary Protection Officer. That’s great!” they said. “Our Planetary Protection Officer position is really cool and is very important work.”

Of course, they also took the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions about the position that young Jack might have, explaining that it’s about “protecting Earth from tiny microbes when we bring back samples” from other worlds and “protecting other planets and moons from our germs as we responsibly explore the Solar System.” Finally, the encouraged him to work hard in school and said that they hoped “to see you here at NASA one of these days!”

The letter was penned by NASA’s Planetary Science Director Dr. James Green, who said in a statement that he and his colleagues “love to teach kids about space and inspire them to be the next generation of explorers.” Jack also received a congratulatory phone call from the agency’s Planetary Research Director Jonathan Rall.

Such efforts are comparable to “a gravity assist – a boost  that may positively and forever change a person's course in life, and our footprint in the universe,” Green said. In an interview with ABC News, Jack said that he thought it would be “really cool” to work with the agency, adding that he felt like he was “the only one who really wants a job at NASA this young.”

Unfortunately for Jack, the Planetary Protection Officer position (which pays between $124,406 and $187,000 per year) requires at least one year of broad engineering experience and a degree in physical science, engineering or mathematics, or some combination of education and experience. So while the youngster probably as a bright future at the agency, those interested in the Planetary Protection Officer position still have a chance – applications are being accepted through August 14.

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Image credit: NASA