On Wednesday, the 41st anniversary of the last human lunar landing, the commander of Apollo 17 picked up the phone to speak with a 6 1/2-year-old from Colorado who is on a mission of his own: He wants to save NASA.
Connor Johnson late last month started a White House petition to increase “funding for NASA so that children can dream of exploring the universe.” Connor has donated everything in his piggy bank — the whole $10.41 — to the space agency, which is struggling with continued budget cuts.
“A lot of people want NASA to come back,” Connor says. “Even grown-ups.”
Gene Cernan, who logged 566 hours and 15 minutes in space as one of 14 astronauts chosen by NASA in 1963, found out about Connor’s petition, signed it and then made a phone call, leaving a chatty little boy speechless:
Cernan: “Well, I am an astronaut. This is Gene Cernan calling. I’m the last person to have walked on the moon.”
For a lot of us, NASA isn’t just a space program, it’s a symbol of how America used to do great things. As of Friday afternoon, Connor’s petition has less than 18,000 signatures. It needs 82,000 more by Dec. 29 to get a response from the Obama administration.
We lifted off the moon for the last time at 10:54:37 p.m. Dec. 14, 1972.
Cernan urged Connor to “take us back to the moon, take us to Mars.” And ” remember, I will always be with you on every trip you take.”
On Saturday, China will land a rover on the lunar surface.
To watch Cernan call Connor go here.