NASA forms the coolest sounding department of all time: The Office of Planetary Protection
NASA just introduced its newest department, the awesomely named Office of Planetary Protection (confusingly nicknamed the PPO). The department has a few different responsibilities, including defending the Earth from asteroids.
It’s a serious office with a serious mission statement. And yet, I would give a pinky to work there just so I can give out cards that read that I was from the Office of Planetary Protection. Maybe not my pinky, but a pinky.
It sounds like the organization an anime hero would work for as they step out in their mechs to fight giant aliens. Hopefully the office is located in a futuristic bunker, deep underground where a crack team of technicians and mission planners can watch the Earth and coordinate sorties in their own mission control like room.
Truthfully, the PPO isn’t quite as cool as its name suggests. It is more about keeping up standards and practices then shooting missiles at asteroids.
The PPO’s actual mission statement reads:
- Preserving our ability to study other worlds as they exist in their natural states;
- Avoiding the biological contamination of explored environments that may obscure our ability to find life elsewhere – if it exists; and
- To ensure that we take prudent precautions to protect Earth’s biosphere in case life does exist elsewhere.
While the headline grabbing responsibility of the office is to protect the Earth, it also exists to protect other planets from us, notably from contamination. That’s not quite as sexy, but it may be just as important as we (hopefully) inevitably make our way off planet.
To that end, the PPO will do more than just monitor and react, it will proactively engage in things like spacecraft design to help improve the “biological burden.” It will also oversee the return, storage, and handling of any extraterrestrial materials.
Still, even if it isn’t quite as cool as some might hope, that name would go a long way on a business card. Just sayin.’