President Trump has expressed bullish enthusiasm for America’s space program, signing an executive order last month resurrecting the National Space Council, on hiatus since the 1990s, and gleefully discussing the prospect of sending people to Mars In fact the job is not new but it will receive more and more importance on the years to come. Catharine Conley was the NASA scientist who has been in this role for three years. Her focus was to ensure that the agency’s activity complies with a 50-year-old international treaty that set standards for preventing biological contamination outside of Earth and safeguarding the planet’s biosphere from any alien life.
At the same time, the earliest missions to Mars, part of NASA’s Viking program, included meticulous steps to not sully the Martian landscape. Exactly in the description of the job NASA says: “The Planetary Protection Officer (PPO) is responsible for the leadership of NASA’s planetary protection capability, maintenance of planetary protection policies, and oversight of their implementation by NASAs space flight missions. The PPO also supports the Safety and Mission Assurance (SMA) Technical Authority and serves as a principal advisory resource for the Chief, SMA and other senior officials on matters pertaining to planetary protection.” “The Office of Planetary Protection is involved in many facets of mission development to prevent microbial contamination of other planets and our own,” Laurie Cantillo, lead communications specialist in the planetary science division, specified for media. In fact, this job is not for stop an alien invasion but to make us very responsible regarding our actions in space, to protect other planets protecting ours.