The UK’s area company is looking for ‘moon bushes’ grown from seeds that went on the Apollo 14 lunar mission

2021-04-22 08:23:21

The seeds — loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood and Douglas fir — had traveled with Stuart Roosa, one of many three NASA astronauts on the mission and a former US Forest Service parachute firefighter, sealed in small plastic pouches saved in a steel canister in his private baggage. They have been a part of an experiment to see how seeds reacted to the area surroundings.

Steve Miller, vice chairman of the Royal Astronomical Society and a professor at College Faculty London, believes that some of those seeds or seedlings ended up in the UK. He needs to know what occurred to them, as does the UK Area Company.

His quest started after he requested a preferred BBC radio present “Gardener’s Query Time” a few appropriate horticultural option to mark the Royal Astronomical Society bicentenary, celebrated in 2020.

Panelist and gardener Christine Walkden prompt he search for the bushes grown from the moon seeds that she believed have been planted within the UK and get a chopping from one in all them. Nonetheless, no proof has been discovered that they exist within the UK.

Two potential recipients, Kew Gardens in London and the arboretum at Jodrell Financial institution, the UK’s fundamental area observatory, haven’t any data of the seeds that supposedly got here to the UK, Miller stated.

He is now interesting to the general public for any leads.

In the US, most of the seeds got away to state forestry organizations in 1975 and 1976 to be planted as a part of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations. In accordance with NASA, a loblolly pine was planted on the White Home. Bushes have additionally been planted in Washington Sq. in Philadelphia, within the Worldwide Forest of Friendship at Valley Forge, and at varied universities and NASA facilities.

Miller has been in a position to observe down a “half moon tree” created from a chopping taken from one of many moon bushes that was planted in the US. The half moon tree is rising in a personal backyard within the village of Flamstead within the Chiltern Hills to the north of London. The RAS has been promised a chopping from that tree for its bicentenary.

Apollo 14 astronauts pose for a group portrait at a prelaunch news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. From left to right: Edgar J Mitchell, Alan B Shepard and Stuart A Roosa.

“We’re extremely grateful for that,” Miller stated. “However we nonetheless wish to know if any Apollo 14 seeds did come to the UK, and — in that case — simply what occurred to them?”

The tree seeds on the Apollo 14 mission weren’t a part of a scientific experiment. When Apollo astronauts went to the moon, they have been allowed to convey a handful of non-public objects. One of many astronauts, the late Alan Shepard, packed golf balls — changing into the primary particular person to golf on the moon.

His crewmate, the late Roosa, determined to take one thing to honor American forests, a tribute to his previous as a smoke jumper — somebody who parachutes into distant wilderness areas to place out wildfires.

Nonetheless, scientists have been subsequently keen to check the seeds, since on the time few experiments had examined the results of area on botanical specimens. The Forest Service studied the genetic construction of the seeds, investigating whether or not they would sprout and develop usually. (They did.)

A tree planting on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Program at NASA on April 22, 2009, at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. The tree was grown from a second-generation seed from seeds flown to the moon and returned to Earth by the crew of Apollo 14 in 1971.
Since then, different seeds have made the journey into area and efficiently sprouted. In 2015, 2 kilograms (4.4 kilos) of salad seeds spent six months on board the Worldwide Area Station and have been efficiently planted again on Earth — though they grew extra slowly than their counterparts that did not depart Earth.

The UK can be dwelling to seven apple bushes that went on a mission to the area station. The UK Area Company cultivated the seeds from the very tree that impressed Isaac Newton to find gravity.

“Sending seeds to area helps us perceive the impact of the distinctive surroundings on seeds’ organic make-up. Understanding the results of area on ungerminated seeds might be very important for future area missions, together with once we look to maintain human life past Earth,” stated Libby Jackson, Human Exploration Supervisor on the UK Area Company, in an announcement.

“Area has an exquisite method of inspiring individuals. We noticed that pleasure when area saplings grown from the seeds from Newton’s apple tree have been planted on our soil. I will be fascinated with discovering if any of the Moon seeds got here to the UK and what has grow to be of them.”

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