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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]

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Watch Astronauts Assemble Pizza in Space
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iStock

Most everyone enjoys a good pizza party: Even astronauts living aboard the International Space Station.

As this video from NASA shows, assembling pizza in zero gravity is not only possible, it also has delicious results. The inspiration for the pizza feast came from Paolo Nespoli, an Italian astronaut who was craving one of his home country’s national dishes while working on the ISS. NASA’s program manager for the space station, Kirk Shireman, sympathized with his colleague and ordered pizzas to be delivered to the station.

NASA took a little longer responding to the request than your typical corner pizzeria might. The pizzas were delivered via the Orbital ATK capsule, and once they arrived, the ingredients had to be assembled by hand. The components didn’t differ too much from regular pizzas on Earth: Flatbread, tomato sauce, and cheese served as the base, and pepperoni, pesto, olives, and anchovy paste made up the toppings. Before heating them up, the astronauts had some fun with their creations, twirling them around like "flying saucers of the edible kind,” according to astronaut Randy Bresnik.

In case the pizza party wasn’t already a success, it also coincided with movie night on the International Space Station.

[h/t KHQ Q6]

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Liberty Science Center
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New Jersey Is Now Home to the Western Hemisphere's Largest Planetarium
Liberty Science Center
Liberty Science Center

Space-loving tourists often travel to Manhattan to visit the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History. But starting December 9, they’ll be able to get their fill of stars and planets in nearby Jersey City. As Astronomy reports, New Jersey’s second-most-populous city is now home to the largest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, and the fourth largest in the world.

The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, an interactive science museum in Liberty State Park, opened in 1993. It’s home to 12 museum exhibition halls, aquariums, a live animal collection, and an IMAX dome theater. On July 31, 2017, the theater was closed for extensive renovations, thanks to a $5 million gift from an altruistic former high school teacher-turned-philanthropist, Jennifer Chalsty, who’s served as a science center trustee since 2004.

Renamed the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, the IMAX theater received a digital upgrade and a brand-new screen, and was provided with the requisite technology to serve as a planetarium. The theater’s dome is 60 feet high, with a diameter of 89 feet, and its 10-projector system broadcasts onto a 12,345-square-foot domed screen.

There are only three planetariums in the world that are larger than the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium, and they’re all located in China and Japan. “You can fit any other planetarium in the Western Hemisphere inside the Jennifer Chalsty Planetarium,” said Paul Hoffman, the science center's president and CEO, in a press release. “Add in the state-of-the-art technology and you have a spectacular unique theater like none other in the world. Visitors will be able to fly through the universe, experience the grandness and vastness of space, roam planetary surfaces, navigate asteroid fields, and watch the latest full-dome movies."

[h/t Astronomy]

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