'Race against time' to find LOST TREES from the MOON

NASA says 'naut smuggled in vegetable invaders


NASA has appealed for help from the public in tracking down a plague of 'Moon trees' grown from seeds brought back from a 1971 lunar mission in an astronaut's personal kit. Space boffins say that the seeds survived in conditions of total vacuum and are thought to have been planted out at various locations on Earth, growing into trees outwardly resembling terrestrial species.

"Hundreds of moon trees were distributed as seedlings," says Dave Williams of NASA's Goddard spaceflight centre in Maryland, "but we don't have systematic records showing where they all went."

No space was set aside in the Apollo capsules for seeds found on the Moon, but it seems that astronaut Stuart Roosa, command module pilot on the Apollo 14 moonshot, got round this by bringing the seeds back from the Moon in his "personal preference kit". Astronauts are given a small private container in which they can carry whatever they choose into space and back: NASA never divulges the contents and takes no official interest in them beyond making sure they are safe to carry on board.

It seems that after the Apollo 14 astronauts splashed down, Roosa's package of seeds proved able to grow on Earth despite having previously been exposed to vacuum.

NASA's Williams believes that the seeds were those of ordinary Earth trees all along: Roosa actually took them with him from Earth in the first place, so the trees aren't really "moon trees" at all. This would account for the fact that Roosa got no nearer the Moon than orbit. As command module pilot he was forced to remain in space while his colleagues Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell descended to the surface. Roosa's interest in tree seeds is explained by the fact that he had once worked at the US Forest Service as a parachuting fireman.

(Shephard, rather than cramming his personal kitbag with seeds, slipped in golf balls and a club head which he later attached to a government-issue geology tool, fashioning a crude six iron with which he hit the first and only golf shots ever played off the surface of a body other than planet Earth. As far as we know ... Shephard claimed his balls went "miles and miles and miles".)

Owing to the unofficial nature of Roosa's lunar tree seedling escapade, NASA kept no records of where all the moon trees may be and Williams has been playing catchup since the 1990s trying to track them down. He only discovered the existence of one at his own workplace, the Goddard centre, after setting up a website seeking information.

Periodically, NASA issues a fresh appeal to the public in its quest to track down the space-going vegetables: it did so yesterday, in fact, describing the effort to find the "moon trees" as "A Race Against Time to Find Apollo 14's Lost Voyagers".

You can learn more about moon trees at Williams' webpage, here. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Google keeps legacy G Suite alive and free for personal use
    Phew!

    Google has quietly dropped its demand that users of its free G Suite legacy edition cough up to continue enjoying custom email domains and cloudy productivity tools.

    This story starts in 2006 with the launch of “Google Apps for Your Domain”, a bundle of services that included email, a calendar, Google Talk, and a website building tool. Beta users were offered the service at no cost, complete with the ability to use a custom domain if users let Google handle their MX record.

    The service evolved over the years and added more services, and in 2020 Google rebranded its online productivity offering as “Workspace”. Beta users got most of the updated offerings at no cost.

    Continue reading
  • GNU Compiler Collection adds support for China's LoongArch CPU family
    MIPS...ish is on the march in the Middle Kingdom

    Version 12.1 of the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) was released this month, and among its many changes is support for China's LoongArch processor architecture.

    The announcement of the release is here; the LoongArch port was accepted as recently as March.

    China's Academy of Sciences developed a family of MIPS-compatible microprocessors in the early 2000s. In 2010 the tech was spun out into a company callled Loongson Technology which today markets silicon under the brand "Godson". The company bills itself as working to develop technology that secures China and underpins its ability to innovate, a reflection of Beijing's believe that home-grown CPU architectures are critical to the nation's future.

    Continue reading
  • China’s COVID lockdowns bite e-commerce players
    CEO of e-tail market leader JD perhaps boldly points out wider economic impact of zero-virus stance

    The CEO of China’s top e-commerce company, JD, has pointed out the economic impact of China’s current COVID-19 lockdowns - and the news is not good.

    Speaking on the company’s Q1 2022 earnings call, JD Retail CEO Lei Xu said that the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic had brought positive effects for many Chinese e-tailers as buyer behaviour shifted to online purchases.

    But Lei said the current lengthy and strict lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing, plus shorter restrictions in other large cities, have started to bite all online businesses as well as their real-world counterparts.

    Continue reading
  • Foxconn forms JV to build chip fab in Malaysia
    Can't say when, where, nor price tag. Has promised 40k wafers a month at between 28nm and 40nm

    Taiwanese contract manufacturer to the stars Foxconn is to build a chip fabrication plant in Malaysia.

    The planned factory will emit 12-inch wafers, with process nodes ranging from 28 to 40nm, and will have a capacity of 40,000 wafers a month. By way of comparison, semiconductor-centric analyst house IC Insights rates global wafer capacity at 21 million a month, and Taiwanese TSMC’s four “gigafabs” can each crank out 250,000 wafers a month.

    In terms of production volume and technology, this Malaysian facility will not therefore catapult Foxconn into the ranks of leading chipmakers.

    Continue reading
  • NASA's InSight doomed as Mars dust coats solar panels
    The little lander that couldn't (any longer)

    The Martian InSight lander will no longer be able to function within months as dust continues to pile up on its solar panels, starving it of energy, NASA reported on Tuesday.

    Launched from Earth in 2018, the six-metre-wide machine's mission was sent to study the Red Planet below its surface. InSight is armed with a range of instruments, including a robotic arm, seismometer, and a soil temperature sensor. Astronomers figured the data would help them understand how the rocky cores of planets in the Solar System formed and evolved over time.

    "InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a statement. "We can apply what we've learned about Mars' inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems."

    Continue reading
  • The ‘substantial contributions’ Intel has promised to boost RISC-V adoption
    With the benefit of maybe revitalizing the x86 giant’s foundry business

    Analysis Here's something that would have seemed outlandish only a few years ago: to help fuel Intel's future growth, the x86 giant has vowed to do what it can to make the open-source RISC-V ISA worthy of widespread adoption.

    In a presentation, an Intel representative shared some details of how the chipmaker plans to contribute to RISC-V as part of its bet that the instruction set architecture will fuel growth for its revitalized contract chip manufacturing business.

    While Intel invested in RISC-V chip designer SiFive in 2018, the semiconductor titan's intentions with RISC-V evolved last year when it revealed that the contract manufacturing business key to its comeback, Intel Foundry Services, would be willing to make chips compatible with x86, Arm, and RISC-V ISAs. The chipmaker then announced in February it joined RISC-V International, the ISA's governing body, and launched a $1 billion innovation fund that will support chip designers, including those making RISC-V components.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022