Observer News

Looking Back at the NASA Moon Trees Quest 2023

From June 21, 2023 through September 21, 2023, we asked our United States GLOBE Observer volunteers to help us find and measure the tree heights of Apollo 14 Moon Trees species (Douglas-fir, loblolly pine, sweetgum, sycamore, and coastal redwood), as well as actual Apollo 14 Moon Trees around the United States as part of the regional NASA Moon Trees Quest. The planning and implementation of this quest was a joint collaboration between The GLOBE Program's GLOBE Observer, NASA Next Gen STEM, and USDA Forest Service. This was a collaborative STEM Engagement initiative to inspire the next Artemis generation.

A Brief History of the Moon Trees

On 31 January 1971, NASA launched the Apollo 14 spacecraft with approximately 2,000 tree seeds onboard. The seeds were a part of astronaut Stuart Roosa’s personal kit. Prior to being a NASA astronaut, Roosa was a smokejumper, a firefighter who jumped into remote forest fires with a parachute, from an aircraft. Because of Roosa’s work with the United States Forest Service, he was contacted by Ed Cliff, former Chief of the Forest Service, to carry the seeds into space. Roosa carried the seeds in a canister in a small canvas pouch that stayed with him as he orbited the Moon in the command module "Kitty Hawk.” Once returned from lunar orbit, the seeds were germinated by the Forest Service and planted mostly across the United States, with a select few traveling outside of the United States. A majority of these Apollo 14 Moon Trees continue to thrive: sycamore, loblolly pine, coastal redwood, sweetgum, and Douglas-fir trees. While many of these trees are still accessible to the public, over the last fifty years some have died, been removed, or now lie on private property.

To read more about the history of the Apollo 14 Moon Trees, please visit the NASA Moon Trees Archive.

Continuing the Apollo 14 Moon Trees legacy, the Artemis I spacecraft, launched on 16 November 2022, carried approximately 2,000 tree seeds up to space. The load consisted of various species: sycamore, loblolly pine, giant sequoia (a cousin of the coastal redwood), sweetgum, and Douglas-fir.

Three Months of Exciting Results!

The NASA Moon Trees Quest asked a great deal from our GLOBE Observers around the States, and our collaborating teams were not sure how well this unique challenge would turn out. Since there are only 48 accessible Apollo 14 Moon Trees in the United States, and a large number of unidentified Moon Tree species within the United States, this was a big undertaking for our volunteers. During the quest, there were 90 individual Apollo 14 Moon Trees and Moon Tree species identified, measured, and documented in the GLOBE database. There were likely more observed, but were not flagged by the observer inputting data into the database.

Examples of some of the Apollo 14 Moon Trees and Moon Tree species observed across the United States.

For the three month quest, there were 6,859 Tree Height observations submitted. This is a large increase compared to the 3,306 Tree Height observations submitted during the same period in 2022. This uptick in tree height observations was in response to the Quest and the combined social media reach of almost 3 million people over several social media platforms, including Facebook, X, and Instagram, between GLOBE Observer and its Quest partners, demonstrated the success of the NASA Moon Trees Quest.

During the span of the quest, there were seven Instagram Reels, in addition to a NASA Instagram/Snapchat story that went live on the NASA flagship's accounts on 23 June 2023, reaching a combined 2 million people. Above are examples of the views of two of the seven Instagram Reels.

The 2023 NASA Moon Trees Quest was an exciting three-month observation and data collection adventure that linked the history of the Apollo 14 Moon Trees Program and the future of the Artemis generation. GLOBE Observer was proud to act as the vital conduit that brought together amazing collaborators in the pursuit of real-world, hands-on science.

To read more about the NASA Moon Trees Quest and to view activities related to Moon Trees, the Artemis Mission and The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer, check out the links below!

NASA Moon Trees Quest Homepage

GLOBE Observer Trees

ArcGIS StoryMap on the Apollo 14 Moon Tree at Oregon State University

Artemis Moon Trees Special Edition Card Set

Branch Out with Artemis Moon Trees

Also, please check out the May 2023 GLOBE Observer Blog, “Moon Trees and You: From Apollo to Artemis with The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer Trees.”

About the Author

Brian Campbell (NASA Wallops/GST, Inc.) is a NASA Senior Earth Science Specialist and Subject Matter Expert at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, USA. Brian is also the Trees Around the GLOBE Student Research Campaign Lead and the Trees Science Lead for The GLOBE Program’s GLOBE Observer citizen science program and serves as the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Earth Science Liaison. Brian, in his 23rd year at NASA, works with local to international students, educators, citizen scientists, and researchers in over 120 countries.


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