Troy University receives “Moon Tree” from NASA’s Artemis I mission

TROY was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to receive a

TROY was chosen out of hundreds of applicants to receive a "Moon Tree" from the 2022 space expedition. (Photo courtesy NASA)

After receiving hundreds of applications, Troy University was selected by NASA to receive a “Moon Tree” seedling that flew around the moon on the 2022 Artemis I mission. The loblolly pine tree seedling was delivered on Friday morning.

Over multiple rounds of selections, NASA chose institutions based on an organization’s ability to care for the tree and how they planned to utilize the tree to promote educational opportunities in their communities.

Dr. Alvin Diamond, biology professor and Director of the arboretum, said TROY has a plan for how to use the tree in different interactions tailored to the varying age groups TROY and the arboretum service.

“For the younger kids, to actually have something that’s been to outer space that they can see and touch will hopefully inspire them to look into STEM careers,” he said. “With the older students, we can look at things about how space travel affects the human body and other living things and what we can do to protect people in space. Hopefully having something hands-on will inspire the students more than just reading from a book.”

Dr. Alvin Diamond with the moon tree, a loblolly pine
Dr. Alvin Diamond with the Moon Tree, a loblolly pine

The Artemis I trees, including sycamores, sweetgums, Douglas firs, loblolly pines and giant sequoias, traveled on board the Orion and were flown around the surface of the moon 270,000 miles from Earth from Nov. 16, 2022 to Dec. 11, 2022. Since returning, the seedlings have been under the care of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

“A new era of moon trees will one day stand tall in communities across America,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a NASA-issued press release on April 24. “NASA is bringing the spirit of exploration back down to Earth because space belongs to everyone. The Artemis Generation will carry forth these seedlings that will be fertile ground for creativity, inspiration and discovery for years to come.”

The first batch of trees was sent to nearly 50 institutions across the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Additional trees will be sent in fall 2024, spring 2025 and fall 2025. TROY received its tree on Friday and will plant it in the Meadowloop Trail at the arboretum.

“We wanted to pick a place where there would be plenty of room for it to grow, and we thought the Meadowloop Trail would be best because it’s open and cleared out and nothing else would be competing with it,” Diamond said. “And it’ll be a reason for visitors to go out on the trails to come see the tree.”

This project is a continuation of the original moon tree project launched in 1971 after traveling with Apollo 14. Astronaut Stuart Rosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, packed hundreds of tree seeds in his personal kit. Alabama received five moon trees that are located in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscumbia, Tuskegee and in Troy at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama.

The tree planting ceremony will be held Thursday, May 2 at 1 p.m. at the arboretum. The event is free and open to the public.

Lead photo caption: On flight day 13, Nov. 28, 2022, Orion reached its maximum distance from Earth during the Artemis I mission when it was 268,563 miles away from our home planet. Orion has now traveled farther than any other spacecraft built for humans.

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