The 6-Year-Old Who Donated His Piggy Bank to NASA Just Got a Call From an Astronaut

"This is Gene Cernan calling. I'm the last person to have walked on the moon."
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Six-year-old Connor Johnson wants to be an astronaut. To realize that dream, however, he needs NASA to have a fully functioning space program when he's an adult—so he has started a White House petition to give the agency more funding. "A lot of people want NASA to come back," Johnson says. "Even grown-ups." NASA, of course, has not gone away, per se; it is in danger, however, of losing some of the funding for its space exploration missions—the funding that would send humans back to the moon, and maybe to Mars. In support of his efforts, Johnson has gotten publicity (including from me, because 6-year-old would-be astronaut).

He has also, he says, received emails and phone calls from people around the world, expressing their support for his efforts. On Wednesday, though, he got a particularly awesome communication. The caller introduced himself like so:

"I am an astronaut. This is Gene Cernan calling. I'm the last person to have walked on the moon."

To which Johnson replied: "WHOA."

It was a meaningful (if, definitely, promotional) call in several ways. Cernan was phoning the young protonaut, he noted, on "the exact day that I stopped on the moon many, many years ago."

And what, Johnson wanted to know, was the last thing he saw as he left the moon those 41 years ago?

"Looking back home at the beautiful Earth that you and I live on," Cernan replied.

The call concluded with some advice: "You've got to dream about things that a lot of other people think you can't do," Cernan said. Then he got a little more demanding: "Take us back to the moon," he told Johnson. "Take us to Mars." And "just remember," the veteran astronaut told the aspiring one, "I will always be with you on every trip you take."

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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