Monday, July 2, 2012

Apollo Moon Trees


In February of 1971, Apollo 14 returned to Earth after the third lunar landing. Moonwalkers Alan Shepard (who was also the first man to play golf on the moon during the mission) and Ed Mitchell spent about 33 hours on the moon.

Tilden Park - Berkeley, CA Moon Tree
Tilden Park Moon Tree - Berkeley, CA

Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa, who remained in lunar orbit while his cohorts frolicked about Fra Mauro, took hundreds of redwood, sycamore, pine, fir and sweetgum tree seeds aboard the Kitty Hawk capsule, at the request of Forest Service employees. Upon return to Earth, the seeds were distributed to various communities, resulting in the "Moon Trees".

To the delight of many, nearly all attempts at germination resulted in healthy trees! Some were planted as experimental controls, alongside normal seeds, though many decades later there is no visible difference. The majority were distributed as seedlings, and planted in 1976 for bicentennial celebrations, though the List of Moon Trees records plantings from as early as 1973 and as late as 1984.

Bicentennial Moon Tree
Flagstaff, AZ Moon Tree

A few traveled to foreign nations, and still others found their way to universities, NASA centers, national parks and monuments -– including the White House.

The catch? They weren't tracked efficiently. Like the Goodwill Moon Rocks, an abundance of materials led the 1970s handlers to be casual about what would one day become a part of world heritage. To date, only one was ever deliberately removed – a New Orleans pine that was damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

Rosemary Roosa Moon Tree
Rosemary Roosa, beside the tree planted in honor of her father.
(Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia) ran an article today, detailing the Race Against Time to Find Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers, and asks that everyone help find the Moon Trees that may still be unaccounted for. Despite knowing Roosa had "hundreds of seeds" on Apollo 14, only 68 are listed officially by NASA – and just 40 have been found and photographed by the Waymarkers Moon Tree Group.

If you know the location of any seeds, or where they were planted, curators at the National Space Science Data Center would love to hear from you. Join the Waymarkers to help search for more trees, and email NASA if you find one!