MOON TREE: Pioneer Museum among select sites for special tree

Published 3:00 am Saturday, July 20, 2019

In the late afternoon of January 31, 1971, Apollo 14 launched on what was to be the United States third trip to the Moon.

Five days later, Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the Moon while Stuart Roosa, former U.S. Forest Server smoke jumper, orbited above in the command module. In Roosa’s personal kit were hundreds of tree seeds.

Ed Cliff, chief of the Forest Service, knew of Roosa as a smoke jumper and contacted him and asked him to take the seeds into space. The seeds selected for experiment were Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood and Douglas Fir. Roosa carried about 500 seeds which stayed with him while he orbited the Moon.

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When the Apollo 14 returned to Earth, the seeds were germinated by the Forest Service and christened “Moon Trees.”

The seedlings were planted throughout the United States usually as a part of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

Four of those seedlings were planted in Alabama, all during 1976.

Barbara Tatom, director of the Pioneer Museum of Alabama, said it is an honor for the museum to be one of four sites in Alabama chosen for the planting of a Moon Tree.

“A sycamore was planted at Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Loblolly Pines were planted at the State Capitol in Montgomery, at Ivy Green in Tuscumbia and, of course, here at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.”

A Loblolly was planted the White House in Washington, in Washington Square in Philadelphia, at Valley Forge, in the International Forest of Friends and at various universities and NASA centers.

Moon Trees were also planted in Brazil, Switzerland and presented to the Emperor of Japan.

Tatom said those who visit the museum and know about or ask about the Moon Trees are impressed that that the Pioneer Museum of Alabama was chosen as a site for a Moon Tree. “Most of us who are old enough have memories of the first Moon landing,” Tatom said. “As a child, I sat in my home on Walnut Street here in Troy and watched Neal Armstrong walk on the Moon and, now, we are celebrating the 50th year of the Moon landing.”

Tatom said the museum’s Moon Tree is reminder of those who pioneered the United States space program and the brave men and women who have traveled into space to further the mission of the program.

“Some visitors to the museum probably walk by this very special tree without realizing its importance,” she said. “We have information about Moon Trees available in the gift shop and will be happy to share it.”

This year, especially this month, would be a great time for photos be taken at the Moon Tree during museum hours, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Admission is charged.