NASA searching for locations of lost 'space trees'

Thursday - 2/10/2011, 2:19pm EST

Kristi King, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - NASA is trying to find space voyagers that are lost here on earth.

They're called moon trees, and 400 of them circled the moon as seeds with the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. Redwood, loblolly pine, sycamore, Douglas fir, and sweetgum trees from that mission are planted all over the United States.

The problem now is there's no record of what happened to all the moon tree seedlings that were given away by the U.S. Forest Service. No one knows how many are left.

The one that went to the White House isn't alive anymore.

"It died at some point, and I don't know exactly when," says NASA Goddard Planetary Scientist Dave Williams, who is working to create a database of the remaining trees.

"I get these e-mails back every couple of months ... people saying ... 'Oh yeah, there's a plaque on a little tree in our park blah, blah, blah,' and they send me pictures and all sorts of things," Williams says.

One tree is planted at the Washington state Capitol. Another is at a Girl Scouts camp in Indiana. Williams has located more than 60 of the trees and finds his quest exciting.

Williams says people seem to like the connection between something that happened 40 years ago and trees they can walk up to and touch today.

"It's space, it's the moon, it's the Apollo Program, so it's pretty cool," he says.

But here it is on earth now -- a tree. An earthbound thing you don't normally associate with the moon and space travel.

"So, I think it's kind of a neat connection," Williams says.

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