Moon Tree descendant lands at NSF NCAR

Arbor Day event celebrates science and exploration

Apr 26, 2024 - by Audrey Merket

Students from St. Vrain Valley School District helped plant a second-generation Apollo Moon Tree on the campus of the U.S. National Science Foundation National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF NCAR) during an Arbor Day ceremony on April 26, 2024. The American Sycamore sapling will serve as a reminder to the community of the importance of scientific exploration.

Before students gently poured soil over the roots of the Moon Tree, the gathering near the NSF NCAR Mesa Lab featured brief remarks on the importance of student engagement in science and a screening of the documentary Moon Trees Past, Present, and Future with the director and producer of the film. Staff from the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Implementation Office organized the event. Students were joined by horticulturalists from the Colorado State University extension office and by the leadership of NSF NCAR and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). UCAR is a nonprofit consortium of 126 North American colleges and universities that manages NSF NCAR. 

“The tree is a connection between Earth and space. It reminds us of where we’ve been and inspires us to dream of where we can go. I hope the Moon Tree will continue to motivate an interest in science today and into the future for future generations of explorers and scientists,” said John Ristvey, GLOBE Implementation Office Director. 

Apollo-era moon trees are grown from seeds that were taken to space on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. Stuart Roosa, an astronaut from Durango, Colorado, brought the seeds with him to honor his days as a smoke jumper fighting fires for the Forest Service. Scientists didn’t know if the seeds that orbited the moon would even grow after being exposed to space, but around 450 of them were successfully sprouted. Those trees were planted throughout the U.S. and around the world. The American Sycamore planted at NSF NCAR is a descendent of one of those original Moon Trees. 

In July 2023, Rosemary Roosa, Stuart Roosa’s daughter and president of the Moon Tree Foundation, visited NSF NCAR and dedicated the tree at The GLOBE Program’s annual meeting. The summer heat did not provide ideal conditions for a successful planting, so it was postponed until the spring of 2024. The April 26 Arbor Day celebration also pays tribute to the culmination of 20 years of the GLOBE program being housed at UCAR. 

Visitors to the NSF NCAR Mesa Lab can visit the Moon Tree on the north side of the Fleischmann Building. Learn more about Moon Trees in the documentary, Moon Trees Past, Present, and Future

Students, teachers, and NSF NCAR staff pose with the Moon Tree Descendant
Antonio Busalacchi, UCAR president (back left); Bill Kuo, UCAR Community Programs Director (back right); John Ristvey, GLOBE Implementation Office Director (front); and students from St. Vrain Valley School District pose with the second-generation Moon Tree. (Photo Rosalyn Stilling, UCAR)

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