Moon Trees, Covenant Life for Astronauts First Trip to Moon

"The historic journey Apollo program is about daring exploration and extraordinary scientific discovery," said NASA acting Chief Historian Brian Odom.


Moon trees, like the one at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, stand as a living monument to the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 (Photo: NASA via Space)


IPHEDIA.com - The craters, mountains and plains Moon stretched under the Apollo 14 Kitty Hawk Command and Service Module in February 1971.

Meanwhile, Commander Alan Shepard and Moon Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell explored Fra Mauro's territory in neighboring Earth's space, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa carried out observations, experiments, and scientific investigations in lunar orbit.

Flying passively in Roosa's personal travel kit at Kitty Hawk 50 years ago was a tube containing about 400-500 loblolly pines, sweet gum, redwood, Douglas fir, and sycamore acorns.

Upon returning, the seeds germinated and grew into "Moon Trees" which are found throughout the US and the world.

"The historic journey Apollo program is about bold exploration and extraordinary scientific discoveries," said acting Chief Historian of NASA, Brian Odom, told Nasa.gov.

“Apollo 14 included the widest range of scientific experiments to that point in the program, but in the case of Roosa's 'Moon Tree', what the astronauts took on their lunar journey has left an indelible mark on the landscape back to Earth."

A joint effort between NASA and the US Forest Service, the seeds were flown in as an experiment to determine the effects of outer space on the seeds.

Additionally and also to help raise awareness about the Forest Service and illegal forest firefighters called smokejumpers.

Roosa served as a smoke jumper in the 1950s - jumping from planes to fight flames - before becoming a military pilot and astronaut.

Ed Cliff, head Forest Service, brought up the Moon Tree concept. Cliff knew Roosa from Roosa's days as a smoke jumper, and he contacted the astronauts to propose the idea.

Stan Krugman, a geneticist at the Forest Service, was assigned to the project and selected the seeds that flew into lunar orbit in Apollo 14.

After the mission, the tubes burst during the decontamination process, and the seeds mixed up. The experimental environment was compromised, and the seeds were feared dead.

Nonetheless, they were sent to Forest Service offices in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Placerville, California, to see if anything could germinate and grow into saplings. About 450 tillers were planted.

Moon Tree saplings were given to schools, universities, parks and government offices, many of which were part of the US bicentennial celebration in 1976. Locations were selected in part to ensure suitable climatic conditions for the tree species concerned.

In a telegram to the US Two-Year Moon Tree planting ceremony, President Gerald Ford said. “This tree, carried by Astronauts Stuart Roosa, Alan Shepard, and Edgar Mitchell on their mission to the Moon, is a living symbol of our spectacular human and scientific achievements.

"This is a fitting tribute to our national space program that has produced America's best patriotism, dedication, and determination to succeed."

Several trees were planted next to trees planted on Earth. After decades of growing, no noticeable difference could be found between a tree that grew from a seed that traveled to the Moon and one that never left Earth.

The second generation tree, grown from the seed of the Moon Tree, is sometimes known as the Half Moon Tree and also grows around the world.

One of the Half-Moon Trees calls NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, as its home because it stood outside the building that played a key role in the development of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo 14 mission.

As NASA and its international partners, industry, and academia prepare to return humans to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, understanding the effects of space on plant growth is critical - a foundation on which the Apollo 14 missions

will be built. Astronauts on the Moon and Mars will be too far from Earth on routine supply missions bringing in fresh food, so they have to be able to grow their own.

Experiments on the International Space Station are studying the growth of various plants and plants, which can be used as food for space astronauts.

In November 2020, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, a member Expedition 64 crew, harvested turnips. Other crops grown on the space station include red romaine lettuce, Mizuna mustard and zinnia flowers.

All plants grown in space have Apollo 14 at their roots. Five decades after the mission to bring the seed to the Moon, trees that grow from the seed stand.

The trees served as living, leafy testaments to mankind's first journey to the Moon, while plants growing in space have since made possible the continuation of mankind's exploration cosmos. (ns/ip)


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