by Paul Seaburn February 7, 2018 (mysteriousuniverse.org)
• Lisa Pratt (seen above) has been appointed NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer, protecting us against threats from other planets, and vice versa.
• Pratt replaces the previous PPO, Catherine Conley, who retired after three years. NASA advertised the $187,000 per year position for a month, then spent four months interviewing candidates.
• Pratt holds a bachelor’s degree and a masters degree in botany, and a master’s and Ph.D. in geology. She also worked on a NASA project studying methane emissions and microbial life on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Pratt will step down from her current position as associate executive dean of Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
• Says Pratt: “This position plays a direct role in seeking evidence to address a profound question: Are we alone?” “We are on the verge of becoming a spacefaring species, and I feel privileged to be invited into an extraordinary conversation, pushing the frontiers of science, exploration and discovery…”
Rest easily, Earthlings … the planet is once again being protected. NASA, which has been looking since last August for a new Planetary Protection Officer to protect the planet against threats from other planets and to protect other planets from threats and contaminates being delivered by Earth-launched space probes, announced that the position has been filled. It’s a big job that just got bigger with the discovery of new planets outside of the Milky Way galaxy. Could that be why the previous Planetary Protection Officer retired?
NASA announced the search for a new PPO in August 2017 when the previous Planetary Protection Officer, Catherine Conley, retired after three years on the job. NASA advertised the up-to- $187,000-a year position for a month, then spent four months interviewing candidates before choosing Lisa Pratt, who will step down from her current position as associate executive dean of Indiana University’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“The title is not a title anybody should have.”
That doesn’t sound like someone who just got a new job, especially one that all of humanity is dependent on, but Lisa Pratt convinced her new bosses that she’s the right person to handle it. The daughter of a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic, she received a bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of North Carolina and a master’s in botany from the University of Illinois. Then she did what anyone with that kind of education behind them would do … she became a bartender.
Fortunately, a college mentor convinced her to go back to school and get a master’s and Ph.D. in geology, giving her what would eventually be the perfect combination of sciences to become a Planetary Protection Officer. But first, she caught NASA’s attention (and received a $2.4 million grant) with her work on the Greenland Ice Sheet (which is similar to conditions on other planets and moons) to study methane emissions and microbial life there.
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