Indiana University Astrobiologist Will Be NASA’s New Planetary Protection Officer

Lisa Pratt, NASA's New Planetary Protection OfficerLisa Pratt, Provost Professor in the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at Indiana University, has been named the planetary protection officer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In this role, Professor Pratt is being assigned the lofty responsibility of protecting the Earth from potential contamination by extraterrestrial life forms, such as microorganisms that could live in the ice on Mars. In short, the fate of the human race may depend on Professor Pratt and her team at NASA.

In accepting the post, Dr. Pratt said: “I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the mission of planetary protection at a defining moment in human evolution and the advancement of science. 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 at NASA.”

Professor Pratt joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1987. She will step down from her faculty position at Indiana University and begin her new duties at NASA on February 5. She will hold the title of professor emerita at Indiana University.

Dr. Pratt holds a bachelor’s degree in botany and a master’s degree in geology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned a second master’s degree in botany at the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in geology at Princeton University in New Jersey.

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