A Race Against Time to Find Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers


In communities all across the U.S., travelers that went to the moon and back with the Apollo 14 mission are living out their quiet lives. The whereabouts of more than 50 are known. Many, now aging, reside in prime retirement locales: Florida, Arizona and California. A few are in the Washington, D.C., area. Hundreds more are out there -- or at least, they were. Dave Williams of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., wants to find them before it's too late. The voyagers in question are not astronauts. They're "moon trees” — redwood, loblolly pine, sycamore, Douglas fir, and sweetgum trees sprouted from seeds that astronaut Stuart Roosa took to the moon and back 40 years ago. Though some of the trees are long-lived species expected to live hundreds or thousands of years, others have started to succumb to the pressures of old age, severe weather and disease. At least a dozen have died, including the loblolly pine at the White House and a New Orleans pine that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina and later removed. When people are aware of the heritage of the trees, they take steps to preserve them, but sometimes people aren’t aware. That’s why Williams wants to locate as many as he can so there can be a record showing the trees were part of their respective communities, before they’re gone.