With the last shuttle mission in the books, NASA has a little time on its hands to think about its history. On the agenda right now is a project to create a register of all surviving "moon trees" in the United States. There are two here in Arkansas.
What's a moon tree, you ask? Well, way back in 1971, NASA sent up several hundred tree seeds of various species — including redwood, sweet gum, sycamore and loblolly pine — on Apollo 14. While a lunar capsule descended to the moon's surface, the seeds stayed on the orbiting command module. The goal was to see if zero gravity had any affect on their germination. After the seeds came back to earth, they were planted and grown into seedlings, which turned out to be hideous, sentient alien/plant hy- brids, intent on our destruction. Just kidding; they were perfectly normal. In 1976, in honor of the country's 200th birthday, the saplings were distributed and planted all over the country. Now NASA is looking to find which still survive in the 40th anniversary year of the Apollo 14 mission.
Arkansas's moon trees are both loblolly pines, and a little phone tag finds that both are still growing strong: one on the grounds of the Sebastian County Courthouse in Fort Smith, the other near the circa-1836 courthouse in Historic Washington State Park in Hempstead County. Both have plaques attached to their trunks, and visits to these aging space travelers are welcome.