KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - Connor Johnson, a 6-year-old Denver boy who gathered petitions to boost NASA's funding, got a VIP tour of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida this past weekend.
When Connor learned last year that potential budget cuts threatened his dream of working for NASA, he launched a We the People WhiteHouse.gov petition drive to increase NASA's budget.
His parents said since the age of three, he has dreamed of becoming and astronaut and discovering new worlds and asteroids.
The agency said it is that forward thinking that allowed Connor and his family to be invited as guests of the Space Center, where they toured the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit and got an up-close look at an Orion capsule mock-up.
As a guest of honor, Connor also met Center Director Bob Cabana, a former astronaut, who gave him a mission patch, an autographed picture, and a bolt from the International Space Station as a token of appreciation from the agency.
Cabana flew four missions as a NASA astronaut, logging 38 days in space as the pilot on STS-41 and STS-53 and the commander of STS-65 and STS-88. He currently serves as the tenth director of Kennedy.
"I think it's great for Connor to be so interested in the future of NASA," Cabana said. "It shows great initiative on his part to do what he's done."
Connor obtained more than 22,000 signatures with his campaign, but needed 100,000 to get recognition from the White House. However, he's not giving up on his dream to become an astronaut and discover new worlds and asteroids.
"I really want our country to still be the leader in space," Connor said. "I hope someday I can be an astronaut who goes to Mars."
NASA said at 6, Connor is about the right age to be one of the astronauts to go to Mars in the 2030s.
Connor told the agency that he thinks he can accomplish his mission because NASA has taught him that any goal can be reached if one takes small steps.
When NASA officials asked Connor why he wants to be an astronaut, he replied, "I want to keep my dreams alive not just for me, but for anyone who wants to be an astronaut. I'm going to need a crew you know."