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Moon Tree Grows Next to School

by Chuck Sheley |

A recent article in "Arizona Daily Sun" discusses how former Smokejumper and NASA Apollo 14 Command Module Pilot Astronaut Stuart Roosa (CJ-53) was “returning to his roots” working with the Forest Service in a great educational endeavor with Flagstaff Junior High School– planting Douglas Fire seeds that had been to the moon and back.

In the early 1970s, the United States was caught up in the Apollo program. And thanks to the U.S. Geological Survey’s role in the missions, Flagstaff was close to the epicenter.

The students in this mountain town were blessed with visits from astronauts like Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Stuart Roosa.

Roosa developed a relationship with science classes at Flagstaff Junior High School. The students had been among those who visited the Apollo astronauts out at the Cinder Lake east of town while they trained for their voyage.

Nine days after it left Earth, Apollo 14 returned and the seeds were germinated by the U.S. Forest Service. The moon seeds grew into normal saplings and were delivered back to the states in commemoration of “the major role forests played in developing our American heritage and the vital role forests have in our future.”

And in a Flagstaff ceremony with much fanfare on April 30, 1976, the Douglas fir moon tree was planted overlooking Frances Short Pond. Roosa, who had started his career as a smokejumper with the U.S. Forest Service, attended the planting.