Wood… is there anything it can’t do? Would Columbus have been able to discover America without wooden ships? Could Apollo 14 have reached the moon and returned safely to Earth without wood in their ship? Well, yeah… but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any wood a board er, aboard – albeit in the form of dozens of tree seeds! (images at top via sodai gomi and above via Jeremy Thompson)
Apollo 14 splashed down in February of 1971 – just over fifty years ago. The mission was crewed by NASA astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa. A dozen years before he joined NASA, Roosa was a smokejumper – a firefighter who parachuted into forest fire zones too remote to reach by road – and he made lasting connections to the U.S. Forest Service while he was there. (image via Jeremy Thompson)
From Seed to Shade
Those connections would come into play once Roosa joined NASA and punched his ticket for the moon. So it was that on January 31 of 1971, Roosa’s personal luggage included a small metal container filled to the brim with roughly 500 seeds from a variety of trees such as loblolly pine, sycamore, sweet gum, redwood, and Douglas fir. Coming off the near-disaster of Apollo 13, Roosa and his botanical cargo of future Moon Trees were a roaring success from launch to splashdown… and beyond! (image via Ed Uthman)
Think the space program’s a little too high tech? Check out Ruskie Business: Soviet Wooden Space Shuttle!