Moon Trees: Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers

1:23 PM, Feb 14, 2011   |    comments
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GREENBELT, Md. (WUSA) - When Apollo 14 lifted off back in 1971, on board were three astronauts and about 400 seeds. 

"They brought along seeds for Sycamore, Loblolly Pine, Sweet Gum, Redwoods, and Douglas Fir," said Dave Williams, a scientist at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. 

"Back in 1996, I got an email from a third grade teacher in Indiana who was doing a project with her class on trees, and there was a tree in their area that had a little plaque on it that said it was a Moon Tree, and it said something about Apollo 14," said Williams.  "I'd never heard of Moon Trees before. This was new to me."

Dave asked around, and it turned out those seeds had been planted all over the country, including one at the NASA Goddard Visitor's Center in Greenbelt.   

"Our Moon Tree is doing really well," said Williams.   

The problem is no one kept a record of where the other Moon Trees were.  So for the past 15 years, Williams has been searching for the lost Moon Trees. 

"So far, I've found about 80 and about 70 of them are still alive," said Williams. 

In addition to the Moon Tree at the NASA Goddard Visitor's Center, there are two other Moon Trees in the greater Washington area.  One is in Bethesda at the Society of American Foresters.  The other is on private land in Loudoun County.   

"What is it about these trees?  Why are they so cool?" asked Williams.  "I think the answer is that somehow to make the connection between these very commonplace, very earthy, very stable trees to something as amazing as going to the moon on Apollo is fascinating to people. It's fascinating to me at least."

You can find a list of all known Moon Trees here

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