A NASA scientist says she is a real-life “guardian of the galaxy.” The duties of her job include stopping earthly microbes from spreading to other planets, as well as the reverse — preventing any potentially deadly alien matter from contaminating Earth and possibly killing millions.
During a “Talks at Google” with Helen Riley, Dr. Moogega Cooper from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) explained how as a planetary protection engineer, she is a true-life superhero.
In fact, she says her work is best described by comparing herself to the comic book popular Marvel franchise starring Vin Diesel, Zoe Saldana, Djimon Hounsou, and Bradley Cooper, that smashed the box office with two installations and a highly anticipated third to debut in 2023.
“The first part is, when we’re sending out spacecraft, rovers, orbiters, whatever it may be, beyond our own planet to another either planet, moon, asteroid that may harbor life, it’s my goal and the team’s goal to make sure that we don’t send our Earth germs to those locations, especially when we’re trying to search for life,” Cooper said to a virtual audience.
According to the NASA Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, Cooper’s job centers on “the practice of protecting solar system bodies from contamination by Earth life and protecting Earth from possible life forms that may be returned from other solar system bodies.”
The scientist, who graduated from high school at 16 and received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the age of 24, detailed how meticulous she and her team must be in this field and the horrible aftermath that can transpire if they mess up.
She said she must make sure any “discoveries” they report are accurate, else she might compromise the integrity of the government agency and the nation.
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