Wanted: Protector of planets. Salary: Six figures

Emma Haslett
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The planet protection officer will earn a six-figure salary (Source: Getty)

If you grew up reading comic books, this may be the job for you: Nasa is looking for a planetary protection officer. The best part? It pays up to $187,000 (£141,300).

According to the job listing on the US government jobs site, the winning candidate will be tasked with leading Nasa's planetary protection capability, which ensures alien planets aren't contaminated by earthly flora and fauna which accidentally tag along on space missions. Presumably, the wearing of superhero-style jumpsuits is optional.

Candidates must have "broad engineering expertise" and be a "recognised subject matter expert" with advanced knowledge of planetary protection.

The pool's narrowed even more by a requirement for experience "planning, executing or overseeing elements of space programmes of national significance", as well as "demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions" (presumably for when the aliens show up).

It also asks for a degree in physics, engineering or maths, "preferably" an advanced degree.

The winning candidate will spend three years in the job, with the possibility of extending it for another two years.

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Although Nasa seems keen to avoid contaminating other planets by accident, it's merrily working on ways to introduce earthly plants to alien atmospheres on purpose. In March, scientists successfully grew a potato plant in Mars-like conditions, with sub-zero temperatures, high concentrations of carbon monoxide and lighting mimicking Martian day and night.

The so-called "super potato" suggests humans could be self-sufficient if they ever reached Mars - and also gave hope to parts of the world suffering from famine and drought.

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