A Real Live Tree That’s Been In Moon’s Orbit Is Growing in Texas
The first time I ever heard of a real live "moon tree", I thought it might be the Hollywood premise for some kind of movie. I did a little research, asking my dad's friends at the Air Force Base and the librarian at my school.
This all took place in the mid-70s. And yeah, "moon trees" really exist. They are actual trees grown from seeds the NASA astronauts took with them to the moon and exposed to the moon's atmosphere.
How did a "moon tree" end up in the Lone Star State? It goes back to 1971. While astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell were walking on the moon, astronaut Stuart Roosa was orbiting the moon in the command module "Kitty Hawk".
Astronaut Roosa, formerly with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), worked with NASA and the USFS on a project to take tree seeds into space, around the moon, and back to Earth. The 200+ seeds were from five different kinds of trees: loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, and Douglas fir.
Upon returning to earth, the containers the seeds were being stored in broke during the decontamination process. It was thought that the seeds scattered all around the decontamination chamber were destroyed and would not germinate.
The seeds were turned over to the USFS to try and germinate the seeds into seedlings. The USFS was successful, and as the seeds were sprouting, they labeled them "Moon Trees". The USFS then began planting them throughout the United States, around government-type buildings, Boy/Girl Scout encampments, and a few foreign countries.
Nearly all the trees were planted as a tribute to Astronaut Roosa and the Apollo Moon program. Both NASA and the USFS kept up with where the seedlings were planted. Only one tree seed was unaccounted for and astronaut Stuart Roosa had it in his possession. It was the last of the Moon Tree seeds.
He planted that last seed at his home in Austin with help from his school-age daughters. It's believed to be one of two Moon Trees that exist in Texas. The other seed was planted in 1976 at the Brazos County Arboretum in College Station. Today the Roosa residence tree continues growing, as you can see in the KXAN-TV video below.
Of the original Apollo-14 Moon Trees, about 90 are still alive and growing. Check out the Moon Tree List here.
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Gallery Credit: Deborah Brosseau