Exactly 50 years ago this weekend Apollo 14 left Fra Mauro crater on the Moon’s surface to begin the three-day trip back to Earth in their spacecraft “Kitty Hawk.”
As well as 94 lbs/43 kg of moon rock the crew brought home something largely lost to history—”Moon Trees.”
What was Apollo 14?
Apollo 14—the third crewed mission that landed on the Moon—is mostly remembered for its commander Alan Shepard playing golf on the Moon.
The first American to enter space a decade earlier, het become—at 47 years old—the oldest person to walk on the Moon.
But did you ever hear about Apollo 14’s “Moon Trees?”
What is a ‘Moon Tree?’
Stowed in the luggage of Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa—who orbited the Moon while Shepard and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell walked on its surface—was a canister containing about 500 seeds of loblolly pine, sweet gum, redwood, Douglas fir and sycamore.
Roosa had worked as a “smoke jumper”—a firefighter who parachutes into remote wild fires to become the first line of defense—and wanted to honor the U.S. Forest Service.
The idea was to see what effect weightlessness would have on the seeds. After orbiting the Moon 34 times and returning to Earth, the seeds were germinated into about 420 seedlings. In 1975-76 they were given to schools, universities, parks and government offices across the US.
Then the “Moon Trees” got lost.
So where are they now?
Where are the ‘Moon Trees?’
Roosa’s “Moon Trees” are elusive. In fact, the locations of only about 56 living “Moon Trees” are known (and 13 known to have died, including a loblolly pine at the White House).
Is there a “Moon Tree” near you? The locations are incredibly random—they include police stations, scout camps and forest service offices (as well as Brazil, Japan and Switzerland). Those connected to the US space program include:
- A sycamore at Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland.
- A sycamore at entrance to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
- A loblolly pine in the grounds of the NASA Johnson Space Center, Florida.
- Five sycamores and two pines at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Alabama.
Many of them have a commemorative plaque on them—like this one—and many of them have spawned “Half-Moon Trees.”
What is a ‘Half-Moon Tree?’
“Half-Moon Trees” are trees grown from the seeds of “Moon Trees.”
There are 24 known “Half-Moon Trees” across the US, including one in Arlington National Cemetery planted in 2005 on the 34th anniversary of splashdown of the Apollo 14 mission.
Another was planted at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC in honor of “Earth Day” and the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Program at NASA on April 22, 2009 (pictured above).
“The historic voyages of the Apollo program were about bold exploration and incredible scientific discovery,” said Brian Odom, acting NASA Chief Historian. “Apollo 14 included the widest range of scientific experiments to that point in the program.”
“But in the case of Roosa’s ‘Moon Trees’, it was what the astronauts took with them on their lunar journey that has left such an indelible mark on the landscape back on Earth.”
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
This article is auto-generated by Algorithm Source: www.forbes.com