NASA has done a fantastic job broadening the agency's appeal to the general public, opening up missions and access to scientists and astronauts over the past few years as it attempts to rebrand itself away from the stuffy, closed-door, pocket-protector-wearing number-crunchers of past generations.
A playful posting on NASA's job recruitment bulletin board for decades displayed an immediate opening for a “Planetary Protection Officer,” a qualified applicant who can protect our planet from “organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.”
Jack Davis, a precocious, sci-fi-loving fourth grader from New Jersey, sent NASA his handwritten application for the job and signed his letter “Jack Davis, Guardian of the Galaxy, fourth grade.”
NASA’s planetary science director Jim Green responded to the ambitious young adventurer with an encouraging letter to "keep vigilant" and offering his thanks for Davis' interest. Planetary Research Director Jonathan Rall at NASA Headquarters in Washington even followed it up with an actual old-school telephone call to congratulate him on his interest in the open position.
“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,” Green wrote. “We hope to see you here at NASA one of these days!”
Taking the time to inspire young minds could spur interest in many related fields and potentially produce a future employee of the American space agency as they hopefully reach out to exotic destinations in our solar system.
"At NASA, we love to teach kids about space and inspire them to be the next generation of explorers," Green said. "Think of it as a gravity assist -- a boost that may positively and forever change a person's course in life, and our footprint in the universe."