UK space activist Phill Parker sent the following announcement to me about his latest project:
UK Man to Send Apollo 14 Moon Trees Back to the Moon in 2017 –
This Time to Land on the Moon!
Apollo 14 launched in the late afternoon of January 31, 1971 on what was to be the third US manned trip to the lunar surface. Five days later astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed in their Lunar Module “Antares” and walked on the Moon at the Fra Mauro region exploring “Cone Crater” while their colleague and fellow astronaut, Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, orbited above the Moon in the command module “Kitty Hawk”.
Packed in small containers in Roosa’s personal kit were hundreds of tree seeds, part of a joint NASA/USFS project. Upon return to Earth, the seeds were germinated by the US Forest Service. Known as the “Moon Trees“, the resulting seedlings were planted throughout the United States (often as part of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976) and some parts of the world. They stand as a tribute to astronaut Roosa and the Apollo program. [See NASA’s Moon Trees website.]
The project began after Roosa was chosen for the Apollo 14 mission. Ed Cliff, Chief of the Forest Service, knew of Stuart Roosa from his days as a smoke jumper and contacted him about bringing seeds into space. Stan Krugman of the Forest Service was put in charge of the project and selected the seeds for the experiment. Seeds were chosen from five different types of trees: Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir. The seeds were classified and sorted, and control seeds were kept on Earth for later comparison.
Roosa carried about 400 – 500 seeds in his personal kit which stayed with him as he orbited the Moon in the command module “Kitty Hawk” in February, 1971. The seeds were then sent to the southern Forest Service station in Gulfport, Mississippi and to the western station in Placerville, California to attempt germination. Surprisingly, nearly all the seeds germinated successfully, and the Forest Service had some 420 to 450 seedlings after a few years (some from cuttings). Some of these were planted with their earth-bound counterparts as controls, (as would be expected, after over twenty years there is no discernible difference) but most were given away in 1975 and 1976 to many state forestry organizations to be planted as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration.
Astronaut Stuart Roosa was born on 16 August 1933, in Durango, Colorado. He worked for the Forest Service in the early 1950’s as a smoke jumper fighting fires and later joined the US Air Force and became a test pilot. He was one of 19 people selected for the astronaut class of 1966 and was part of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 9. Following Apollo 14, Roosa was backup command module pilot for Apollo’s 16 and 17. He then worked on the Space Shuttle program until his retirement as a Colonel in the Air Force in 1976, the time when many of his trees were being planted.
Sadly, Stuart Roosa passed away in December, 1994. The Moon Trees continue to flourish, a living monument to our first visits to the Moon and a fitting memorial to Stuart Roosa.
Now, nearly 45 years later since the original Apollo 14 Moon Tree seeds were flown around the Moon, spaceflight enthusiast Phill Parker – from Newcastleunder- Lyme, Staffordshie,UK – is flying some more Moon Tree generational Sycamore seeds from the original Moon Tree seeds back to the Moon in 2017 aboard the Astrobotic Griffin Moon Mission One. This will act as a further tribute to astronaut Stuart Roosa and the US Apollo Project . But this time not just to orbit the Moon but to actually land them on the surface of the Moon for the first time in the lunar region called Lacus Mortis!
Phill Parker authored many Apollo manned lunar landing articles for the British Interplanetary Society in the 1960s-70s – several of which are cited in NASA’s official Apollo Bibliography and,additionally, founded the West European Space Colony Society in 1975 which later merged with the prestigious US National Space Society (NSS). He has produced many spaceflight exhibitions at museums in the UK and delivered over 750 talks on space missions across UK since 1964, as well as writing dozens of articles on spaceflight.