The Truth Behind the Mystery Why a Moon Tree Is Growing in Austin
First off you've gotta ask yourself what exactly is a "Moon Tree?" That's a real question because they do exist and they really did come from the moon, sort of. Moon trees are actual trees grown from seeds they have made a trip to the moon and back to earth.
So how does a real live moon tree end up in the Lone Star State? It goes back to 1971, on a trip to the moon an astronaut had something special with him in a small container on his person. This trip had astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell actually walking on the moon while astronaut Stuart Roosa was orbiting in the command module named "Kitty Hawk" in February 1971.
Astronaut Roosa formerly with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) had worked with NASA and the US Forest Service on a project to take tree seeds into outer space over and around the moon and back to earth. The 200 seeds were from five different kinds of trees they were loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, and Douglas fir.
Interestingly enough, upon returning back to earth the containers the seeds were in, busted wide open in the decontamination process, and it was thought that the seeds that were scattered all around in the decontamination chamber and were exposed to the vacuum in the chamber were destroyed and might not germinate.
LOOK: These Are Moon Trees Found in Texas
The seeds were turned over to the USFS as they would try to germinate the seeds into seedlings. The US Forrest Service was successful, and as the seeds were sprouting they took those seedlings and labeled them "Moon Trees." The USFS then began planting them throughout the United States, around governmental-type buildings, boy/girl scout encampments, and a few foreign countries, you get the idea.
Many of the young seedlings were planted as part of the nation's upcoming bicentennial in 1976. Nearly all the trees were planted as a tribute to Astronaut Roosa and the Apollo Moon program as well. Both NASA and the USFS kept up with where the "Moon Tree" seedlings were planted. But only one tree seed was unaccounted for and astronaut Stuart Roosa had possession of the last Moon Tree seed.
He planted that last Moon Tree seed at his home in Austin, Texas with help from his school-age daughters. It's believed to be one of two Moon Trees that exist in the Lone Star State. The only other tree was planted in 1976 at the Brazos County Arboretum in College Station. Today the Roosa residence tree continues growing as you'll see in the KXAN-TV video above.
There are other so-called "Moon Trees" that were sent into orbit and brought back recently and planted within the past ten years or so. However, the original Apollo-14 Moon Trees only about 90 are still alive and growing. Check out the Moon Tree List here.