Today’s the day in 1971 that the Apollo 14 mission launched.
It may be best known today for the moment when astronaut Alan Shepard hit golf balls on the surface of the moon, but that wasn’t the only landmark from this mission.
Apollo 14 gave us the “moon trees.”
This was a collaboration between NASA and the US Forest Service.
Astronaut Stuart Roosa had worked for both.
Before joining up with NASA as an astronaut, he’d worked as a smokejumper, fighting forest fires.
The head of the Forest Service, Ed Cliff, got in touch with Roosa with an idea that was one part forest fire awareness campaign and one part science experiment.
He said, essentially, what if we took some tree seeds into space, brought them back to earth, and then planted them?
The Forest Service put seeds for Douglas fir, sycamore, sweetgum, loblolly pine and redwood into sealed plastic bags.
Roosa carried them in a canister in his personal kit on board the command module.
When Apollo 14 came back to Earth, the seeds came back too.
The bags broke during decontamination, but the seeds were still viable, even if they were now unsorted.
The Forest Service was able to grow some 450 saplings, and the little “moon trees” were sent all over the country and beyond as part of the US bicentennial celebration in 1976.
The scientists didn’t find any notable differences between the moon trees and the control group trees that had not gone into lunar orbit, but still, it’s pretty cool to have a moon tree on your campus, or outside your office building, right?
Some of them have even become parents to what are called Half-Moon Trees.
And just to be clear, “Moon Trees” is a plural noun and NOT an instruction…
If you’re online – and I’m not sure how you’d be reading this if you weren’t – you know that LOL is an acronym that stands for “laugh out loud.”
Brian Moore, who the website Laughing Squid calls a “technology tinkerer,” just developed the LOL Verifier.
It connects with your keyboard and you can only type LOL if it notices that you are actually laughing out loud.
The “Moon Trees” (NASA)
Photo by Sarah via Flickr/Creative Commons