The Athens Historical Society participated in a rededication of Athens’ “Moon Tree” located at 120 West Dougherty Street on May 7, 2021. This tree – a Loblolly Pine – was grown from a seed flown to the moon and back in February 1971.
When Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971 it carried, among other things, a packet of more than 400 tree seeds. These were stored in the personal kit of Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, who had been approached by the US Forest Service about carrying the seeds to space. Roosa agreed to participate, and over the next nine days he and his cargo traveled nearly half a million miles from the Earth to the moon and back again. After the mission’s successful conclusion, the seeds were analyzed by Forest Service stations to examine what effect, if any, spaceflight had imparted on them. After years of study, surviving saplings were selected for national and international distribution through NASA’s “Moon Tree” program.
In 1976, the Athens Sertoma Club lobbied for the city to become home to one of these trees, and in May of that year they succeeded in planting a very well-traveled Loblolly Pine at what was then the site of the Athens-Clarke Country Library (today the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department). Now, 50 years after the Apollo 14 mission, Athens-Clarke County Landscape Management in partnership with the Athens Historical Society is recognizing our Moon Tree once again with an event held on May 7 – National Space Day. By showing what is possible when environmental science reaches for the stars, these groups feel that the tree is a unique inspirational asset in our already exceptional city.
The event began at 10:00 AM after which Rosemary Roosa, daughter of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa, delivered virtual remarks. Her talks will be uploaded to YouTube presently.