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To infinity and beyond: Project moon tree, take II

From across the street: A sycamore tree on Mississippi State University's campus.
A sycamore moon tree planted at Mississippi State University in 1975 is the parent tree to many second generation trees called Half-Moon Trees. NASA photo by Will Bryan.

WASHINGTON, DC—The Forest Service Conservation Education staff, together with NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement and Natural Inquirer, is proud to announce the Artemis Moon Trees Program and its associated educational resources.

The program celebrates the launch of Artemis I, a remotely operated lunar orbital mission that will carry seeds from five tree species in its payload — loblolly pine, Douglas fir, sycamore, giant sequoia and sweet gum. The Artemis I launch supports NASA’s mission to eventually establish long-term human presence on the moon and is slated for the end of this month. It will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon.

Upon returning to Earth, the seeds carried on Artemis I will be grown into seedlings by the Forest Service and distributed to locations across the U.S. NASA and the Forest Service will choose moon tree recipients through a competitive application process.

The Forest Service helped prepare a variety of educational materials to support the Artemis Moon Trees Project, including a distance learning module. These materials can be found on Natural Inquirer’s Artemis Moon Trees website. Learners of all ages can engage with the mission by hosting a watch party or signing up to receive STEM resources.

Freshly planted sycamore seedling surrounded by three shovels.
A second generation moon tree, this sycamore seedling was planted at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC, in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. NASA photo by Bill Ingalls.

As with the 1971 moon trees effort, the Forest Service is providing the seeds—four of the five species are the same as those sent into space 51 years ago.

The original moon trees effort began when astronaut Stuart Roosa was selected for the Apollo 14 mission. Then-Forest Service Chief Ed Cliff knew Roosa as a former agency smokejumper, so Cliff asked him about carrying seeds into space. Roosa agreed and tucked seeds into his personal preference kit, which accompanied him as he orbited the moon in the Kitty Hawk command module.

Back on terra firma, Forest Service staffers germinated the seeds and, eventually, over 400 moon trees were planted across the country.


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