Hard to think of a cushier job really. When I heard about it I checked the date. It must be April the 1st surely? But no. Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman looks set to become the planet’s first space alien ambassador.
When aliens get in touch or land on earth, it will be Ms Othman’s job – if she gets her wish – to organise the teleconference or host the cocktail party. Othman, 58, is currently the chief of the UN’s relatively quiet but fabulously-titled Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa).
The proposal to create the job of space alien ambassador came from – well – from Ms Othman. She’s lobbying hard to get the job – salary as yet undetermined – and will push for the post’s creation at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire, England, in early October 2010.
To the naked eye it might appear that the Unoosa chief is looking for an excuse to shovel lots of unearned cash in her own direction but she would disagree. Instead she argues that “the continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day human kind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject.”
Which, translated into plain English, means “give me another well-paid cushy job.”
What, one might ask, are the ‘sensitivities’ exactly? That aliens coming over here might take our jobs? That we might hurt their feelings by pointing at their bug eyes and skinny fingers?
With a straight face, Othman will tell delegates at the conference that since the discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars makes the discovery of extraterrestrial life likely, an ambassador for alien life forms is essential. Just who will meet the aliens? she’ll ask.
Presumably she’ll make the case, too, for an astronomically high salary.
Imagine being earth’s Space Alien Ambassador. What would your working day be like? You’d sit with your feet up till your secretary wondered in with coffee. “Any contact?” he or she would ask. “Nope” you’d reply as you casually checked your fat pay slip. “Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Same as yesterday.” And the day before that and the day before that.
Othman might at a pinch be able to fool around a bit with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which she oversees. In that remarkable document the UN agreed that arriving aliens should be sterilised in order to protect the indigenous population of planet earth. Not a very sensitive way to welcome alien life forms: “Please step over here while we figure out how you reproduce and then stop you doing it.”
As Space Alien Ambassador the woman’s going to have plenty of time on her hands. She can open up a whole new branch of US and international space law on alien reproductive rights if she wants. As she’s likely to argue during the job creation conference pitch – someone’s got to do it.