Moon Tree Takes Root at Lockheed Martin
When Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971, for America’s third trip to the moon, it not only carried three men on a mission, it also carried hundreds of seeds that would produce “Moon Trees” here on earth. Lockheed Martin is proud to possess one of these unique trees at its King of Prussia, Pa., facility.
Seeing the forest for the trees
The genesis of Lockheed Martin’s Moon Tree (a platanus occidentalis, also known as an American sycamore) dates back to August 9, 1969, when NASA announced the crew for Apollo 14. Soon after, the U.S. Forest Service joined with NASA on a project to study the effects of prolonged weightlessness on seed germination and seeding growth. The partnership was a natural one for Apollo 14’s Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, who was a former Forest Service smoke jumper.
The Forest Service selected 400 - 500 seeds of five different trees: Douglas fir, loblolly pine, redwood, sweet gum and sycamore. The seeds were classified and sorted, and control seeds were kept on earth for comparison. Roosa packed the seeds in small containers and stored them in his personal kit aboard Apollo 14.
On February 9, 1971, Apollo 14 returned safely to earth. However, the seed canisters burst during the decontamination process. Fortunately, the seeds withstood the spill. The resulting 420 - 450 seedlings—referred to as "Moon Trees"—were planted throughout the U.S.
Houston, we have a moon tree
On July 30, 1976, Lockheed Martin’s Moon Tree was planted at the King of Prussia location, a heritage General Electric Space Division for the U.S. space program, recognizing the design, assembly and operational contributions for Apollo’s ground equipment necessary for flight vehicle safety testing.
More than 35 years after taking root on earth, this Moon Tree pays tribute to Stuart Roosa and America’s brave astronauts. It symbolizes Lockheed Martin’s significant role in NASA’s shuttle missions from the start, as well as mankind’s insatiable curiosity and desire to explore the unknown.