The Apollo mission was obviously a great accomplishment for what we now refer to as humankind, and Oregon State University boasts a small piece of that history: the Moon Tree. This towering Douglas-fir, as a tiny seed, accompanied Alan Shephard, Edgar Mitchell, and command module pilot Stuart Roosa on Apollo 14’s journey to the moon.
Stuart Roosa was an Oregon smoke jumper for the U.S. Forest Service in his younger days. When he was selected for the Apollo 14 mission, the USFS reached out to him with an idea for an experiment. They were curious if space travel would have any effect on the seed germination of trees, so Roosa ended up with four to five hundred seeds in his personal effects while he orbited the moon in the command module.
After the return of Apollo 14, almost all of the seeds were successfully germinated. Many of the seedlings were planted as a part of our country’s 1976 Bicentennial celebration, including the now enormous specimen that grows on the east lawn of Peavy Hall.
In 2012, the Moon Tree was rededicated to the memory of Stuart Roosa, who passed away in 1994. The man was a smoke jumper turned test pilot turned Apollo astronaut; I say name an entire building after him.
The Moon Tree and corresponding plaque can be viewed from 30th street in front of Peavy Hall, but it’s currently fenced in due to the construction of the new building. Let us pray to Gifford Pinchot and David Douglas that the new Peavy stops collapsing so we can once again sit underneath our beloved Doug fir from space.
By Jay Sharpe