September 18, 2002
Next to the Visitor Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland stands a strapping sycamore tree, which as a seed journeyed to the Moon during the Apollo 14 Mission. Stuart Roosa, a former smoke jumper for the National Park Service, was aboard Apollo 14 and was responsible for taking various tree seeds to the Moon and back as part of a joint project with NASA and the US Forest Service. He carried hundreds of Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood and Douglas Fir tree seeds to the Moon. During the decontamination process, back on Earth, canisters containing the seeds burst opened and were thought to be incapable of germination. Fortunately, however, the seeds were sent to Forest Service stations in Mississippi and California where they were germinated successfully. Some the trees were planted with trees of the same species not taken to the Moon for purposes of comparison, but most of them were given away in 1975 and 1976 to state forestry organizations, the White House, heads of state in Brazil and Switzerland, the Emperor of Japan, various universities, and NASA centers. The tree above is a real trooper. It has not only survived a trip to the Moon, wind storms, ice, snow, and drought, but it has, with the help of a little fencing, even been able to endure Goddard's ravenous deer population.