Tucson has so many wonderful and interesting "things" to explore and none more than the official Arizona Moon Tree. We wrote this story for an anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Hope you like our story and that you take the time to visit Arizona's own Moon Tree! Here is a link with more information about Moon Trees - http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html
July 20th marks the forty-first anniversary of the Apollo astronauts landing on the moon. For Arizonans still fascinated by those Apollo moon flights, Arizona has a unique, living symbol of those glorious days growing on the campus of the University of Arizona in Tucson - an American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), better known as Arizona’s “Moon Tree.”
It was January 31, 1971 when the Saturn V rocket roared to life, sending Apollo 14 and its three-man crew on a journey to the moon. Astronaut Stuart Roosa was the pilot of the command module and would stay in orbit above the moon while his fellow astronauts, Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell, landed and explored the moon’s surface.
Prior to becoming an astronaut, Commander Roosa worked as a hotshot for the U.S. Forest Service. He had always had a great love for trees so it was no surprise that he had worked out a plan with the Forest Service to carry 400 – 500 seeds to the moon and back.
Roosa chose five species of seeds to make that journey with him to the moon. They were the loblolly pine, sycamore, sweet gum, redwood and Douglas fir. While Shepard and Mitchell explored the moon’s surface, Roosa and his tree seeds circled the moon together.
Upon Apollo 14’s return to earth, Forest Service geneticists began their work to get the many seeds that had flown to and from the moon to germinate. Their efforts were successful and soon resulted in about 450 saplings. Now the task of deciding where to plant these special trees began.
The White House, of course, received one. So too did Valley Forge, the Kennedy Space Center, the New Orleans River Walk, Washington Square in Philadelphia and several universities – including the University of Arizona.
The planting of the Moon Trees even became a part of America’s 1976 Bicentennial Celebrations. President Gerald Ford spoke of these trees that were planted in communities across America in 1976 as living symbols of “our spectacular human and scientific achievements.
Arizona’s Moon Tree was planted on April 30, 1976. Today it is still located between the Kuiper Space Sciences Building and the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium just waiting for Arizonans to get out and see for themselves a little part of the Apollo moon flight history.