In 1971, astronaut Stuart Roosa took 500 seeds aboard Apollo 14 as part of his personal luggage. In his earlier life, Roosa had been a smoke jumper, someone who parachutes into burning forests to fight fires (people with the balls of astronauts had to find something to do before space travel came along).
The US Forestry Service gave the seeds to Roosa to take with him because of his earlier career. The seeds orbited the moon 34 times aboard Apollo 14′s command module—Roosa never walked on the moon himself. When he returned to Earth, the seeds were planted, and five years later, saplings were sent all around the country (and even overseas) as part of American bicentennial celebrations. Shortly after that, everyone forgot about them. It wasn’t until 1997 that they were rediscovered—by a bunch of schoolkids. Cannelton Elementary School in Indiana had a tree on their grounds with a “Moon Tree” plaque, but no idea what that meant. They called NASA, and no one there had any idea either. Their inquiries prompted scientist Dave Williams to do some digging, and he was able to root out the tree’s history. He’s since collected details on over 50 of them. There are likely hundreds more around the world, so if you know of any, you can email him and help reconstruct a piece of history.
For those of you seeking the key to tree superpowers and thinking “outer space,” we’re sorry to inform you that the moon trees have been compared with trees from their sibling seeds that never left Earth and found to be no different.
On December 10, 1997, environmental activist Julia Hill climbed a redwood tree in California to protest logging practices by the Pacific Lumber Company. She stayed there until December 23, 1999, setting a record for the longest tree sit. Tree sitting, which is pretty much what it sounds like, is a popular form of protest with environmentalists around the world.
Tree sitting is popular mainly because it’s difficult to arrest and evict people when they’re so far above the ground. Tree sitters will often link several trees together with ropes to create a village of sorts, and locals aren’t averse to flocking to their aid with
supplies. The protest is such an effective nuisance that Oregon recently passed a law allowing logging companies to sue protesters, though a similar law that would make tree sitting a felony punishable by up to five years in prison failed to get past the Senate.