Monday, October 15, 2012

Does CCAFS Have a Moon Tree?

Is this a Moon Tree?

In January 1971, Apollo 14 launched from Kennedy Space Center. Among the items onboard were hundreds of tree seeds in the personal kit of Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa.

Because Roosa remained in the Command Module while his two crewmates descended to the lunar surface, the seeds never actually were on the Moon. But they came to be known as Moon Trees.

Five different seeds were flown — Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir. The seeds were given to the U.S. Forest Service, which distributed them across the nation and around the world.

Accurate records of their distribution were not kept, so their whereabouts are largely unknown.

One Moon Tree is a sycamore at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The KSCVC Moon Tree.

According to the July 9, 1976 Spaceport News, the tree was presented on June 25, 1976 by the Forest Service to NASA at a 3rd Century America event. This was part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration held at the Vehicle Assembly Building. The tree was to be replanted at the Visitor's Information Center, as KSCVC was once known.

Last week, I was approached by a local space historian who told me that another sycamore Moon Tree was planted at what is now the Space Florida complex outside Gate 1 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He said a plaque was once in front of this tree to note its historical significance, but that the plaque has disappeared.

At the top of this article is a photo of the alleged CCAFS Moon Tree. It's southwest of the SpaceX Launch Control Center. This map will give you an idea of its location:

The yellow arrow points to the location of the CCAFS Moon Tree. Original image source: Google Maps.

The 1976 Spaceport News article made no mention of a CCAFS Moon Tree, so now the quest has begun to determine if this really is one.

Calling upon the resources of the talented docents at the Air Force Space & Missile Museum, we've been able to piece together some circumstantial evidence.

This is the only sycamore in the complex. There seems no logical reason for one to be there.

Although sycamores can be found in Florida, this tree wasn't present when the complex opened.

The Canaveral Resident Center circa 1970. The building today is a Space Florida satellite office. The building in the background is today's SpaceX Launch Control Center. Image source: University of Central Florida Special Collections.

The complex began life as the Canaveral Resident Center for the Florida Technological University. "Florida Tech," as it was known then, began in Orlando in 1963 to serve the local aerospace university at CCAFS and KSC. The Canaveral Resident Center was for the university's local extension program.

The CCAFS annex in 1975 became the Florida Solar Energy Center. It was operated by the University of Central Florida, which evolved out of the old Florida Technlogical University.

This June 1979 image does not appear to show the "Moon Tree." It is taken from “Images of America: Cape Canaveral” by Ray Osborne.

A 1979 image does not appear to show the Moon Tree at its present location. A 1989 aerial photo provided by a museum docent does show the tree at a much younger age.

The 1989 image of the Florida Solar Energy Center complex. The red arrow points to what appears to be the sycamore. Image source: Air Force Space & Missile Museum.

So it appears that the sycamore was probably planted somewhere between 1979 and 1989.

We continue to research the sycamore, hoping to collect enough evidence to prove that this is a Moon Tree.

Can you help?

If you have any information, please e-mail me at and help us prove that this sycamore is worthy of historical preservation.

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