NASA’s response to a 4th-grade letter asking for planetary defense job
When NASA posted a job description for its “planetary protection
officer” role, the space agency was fishing for candidates with
advanced degrees and experience working on interplanetary
What it did not expect, however, was an earnest letter from
nine-year-old Jack Davis: a fourth-grader who wrote the space
agency asking if he could apply.
The new job opening, which Business Insider first publicized in
a story on Tuesday, pays up to $187,000 and is for NASA’s one
and only full-time planetary protection officer — a role
established in 1967.
The role is not only responsible for protecting alien worlds like
Europa (an icy,
potentially habitable moon of Jupiter) from germs on
human-launched spacecraft, but also defending the Earth from
contamination by alien microbes.
But enamored by the possibilities, Davis — a self-described
“Guardian of the Galaxy” — summoned the courage to write and
address a letter to NASA on Thursday.
The full text of Davis’ letter, which NASA posted in a press release on
My name is Jack Davis and I would like to apply for the planetary
protection officer job. I may be nine but I think I would be fit
for the job. One of the reasons is my sister says I am an alien.
Also, I have seen almost all the space movies and alien movies I
can see. I have also seen the show Marvel Agents of Shield and
hope to see the movie Men in Black. I am great at vidieo [sic]
games. I am young, so I can learn to think like an alien.
Guardian of the Galaxy
The space agency could have easily dismissed the letter with a
chuckle, but planetary science director Jim Green decided to
type, sign, and mail a note back to Davis.
Here’s a screenshot of Green’s letter:
The full text reads:
I hear you are a ‘Guardian of the Galaxy’ and that you’re
interested in being a NASA Plantary Protection Officer. That’s
Our Plantary Protection Officer position is really cool and is
very important work. It’s about protecting Earth from tiny
microbes when we bring back samples from the Moon, asteroids and
Mars. It’s also about protecting other planets and moons from our
germs as we responsibly explore the Solar System.
We are always looking for bright future scientists and engineers
to help us, so I hope you will study hard and do well in school.
We hope to see you here at NASA one of these days!
Dr. James L. Green
Director, Planetary Science Division”
The space agency didn’t stop there, however.
Jonathan Rall — NASA’s planetary research director — also rang up
Davis “to congratulate him on his interest in the position,” NASA
said in the release.
“Although the Planetary Protection Officer position may not be in
real-life what the title conjures up, it does play an important
role in promoting the responsible exploration of our solar system
by preventing microbial contamination of other planets and our
own,” NASA added.
NASA is accepting applications at USAJobs.gov from July
13 through August 14.
full story about the gig here.