NASA is branching out into schools by inviting teachers to apply for a chance to bring a “moon tree” seeding into their classrooms.
In Nov. 2022, NASA teamed up with the USDA Forest Service to send nearly 2,000 tree seeds on the Artemis I mission to orbit the moon for four weeks in the Orion capsule. Upon their return, scientists germinated the specimens and grew them into seedlings, which are now ready to distribute to educational and community organizations nationwide through NASA’s Artifacts Module Program and Office of STEM Engagement.
“NASA’s Artemis moon trees are bringing the science and ingenuity of space exploration back down to Earth,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a press release. “Last year, these seeds flew on the Artemis I mission 40,000 miles beyond the Moon. With the help of the USDA, this new generation of Moon trees will plant the spirit of exploration across our communities and inspire the next generation of explorers.”
Five different species of trees were on board the space capsule and will be part of the educational program:
- Douglas fir
- Giant sequoia
- Loblolly pine
K–12 classrooms — as well as museums, universities federal agencies, community groups, and USDA Forest Service Partners — are eligible to apply to receive a seedling. Applicants are expected to develop “educational opportunities to connect students, schools, and communities to the Artemis mission.”
This is the second time NASA has implemented a moon tree program in the U.S. to help advance STEM initiatives. In 1971, astronaut Stuart Roosa, who was a USDA Forest Service worker before becoming joining NASA, carried tree seeds for the duration of his Apollo 14 lunar mission and the resulting seedlings were eventually planted around the world.
Those interested in applying to receive a moon tree seeding must follow NASA’s four-step process to be eligible for consideration. To help educators collaborate, the organization created a special Moon Trees group community on its NASA Connects online portal.
A step-by-step guide to help teachers complete the application process is available at NASA’s website.