CLOSE

Job Alert! NASA Is Hiring a 'Planetary Protection Officer'

From space psychologist to chief sniffer, there are thousands of positions at NASA designed to ensure missions run smoothly. The most important-sounding title may be "Planetary Protection Officer," and according to Business Insider, the space agency is looking for a qualified person to fill the role.

The PPO—a position that has been around for decades—is responsible for not only protecting humanity from alien contamination, but also for making sure planetary or lunar missions don't leave behind any materials that could harm other planets. The job posting reads:

"NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration."

Candidates must have at least a year's experience in a high-level government job, extensive knowledge of planetary protection, and an advanced degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics. The chosen applicant will receive a salary between $124,406 to $187,000, plus benefits, and hold the role for three years.

The job of planetary protection officer was created in light of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The international agreement stipulates that the potential for contamination from Earth on interplanetary missions should be limited to a one-in-10,000 chance. That’s why the Curiosity rover was forbidden from collecting water on Mars even though a sample would be invaluable to scientists.

NASA states the PPO will be required to travel to ensure space agencies around the world are complying with international space laws. They will also be instrumental in preparing vessels and equipment for any future missions to Mars. "The focus of planetary protection is to make sure … the next robotic mission to Mars doesn't bring something along that might cause problems later,” the current PPO, Catharine Conley, told Mental Floss last year.

The posting went up last month on USAJobs.gov. Interested job seekers have until August 14 to apply.

[h/t Business Insider]

Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
arrow
Space
Look Up! The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend
Original image
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

October is always a great month for skywatching. If you missed the Draconids, the first meteor shower of the month, don't despair: the Orionids peak this weekend. It should be an especially stunning show this year, as the Moon will offer virtually no interference. If you've ever wanted to get into skywatching, this is your chance.

The Orionids is the second of two meteor showers caused by the debris field left by the comet Halley. (The other is the Eta Aquarids, which appear in May.) The showers are named for the constellation Orion, from which they seem to originate.

All the stars are lining up (so to speak) for this show. First, it's on the weekend, which means you can stay up late without feeling the burn at work the next day. Tonight, October 20, you'll be able to spot many meteors, and the shower peaks just after midnight tomorrow, October 21, leading into Sunday morning. Make a late-night picnic of the occasion, because it takes about an hour for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Bring a blanket and a bottle of wine, lay out and take in the open skies, and let nature do the rest.

Second, the Moon, which was new only yesterday, is but a sliver in the evening sky, lacking the wattage to wash out the sky or conceal the faintest of meteors. If your skies are clear and light pollution low, this year you should be able to catch about 20 meteors an hour, which isn't a bad way to spend a date night.

If clouds interfere with your Orionids experience, don't fret. There will be two more meteor showers in November and the greatest of them all in December: the Geminids.

Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA
arrow
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios