In 1971, NASA launched Apollo 14, the third mission to land astronauts on the moon.  During that mission, NASA Astronaut Stuart Roosa conducted experiments from the orbiting command module Kitty Hawk while Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked about the lunar surface. Each astronaut was allowed to bring a limited number of personal items carried in their “Personal Preference Kit”. Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smokejumper, brought 500 seeds from five tree species on the Apollo mission including sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, Douglas fir, and loblolly pine (Pinus taeda).

Upon their return to Earth, the seeds underwent a period of quarantine followed by decontamination. During the decontamination process the canister holding the seeds exploded scattering its contents and mixing all the seeds together. Scientists at the US Forest Service were able to sort seeds by species, but were concerned that the seeds might not germinate due the exposure the seeds experienced during the mission and/or the quarantine and decontamination process on Earth. The seeds were then sent to US Forest Service stations in Gulfport, Mississippi and Placerville, California, where they were able to germinate >80% of the seeds despite previous worries.

In 2015, Rosemary Roosa, the daughter of astronaut Stuart Roosa, presented Rice with one of the loblolly pine moon trees and it was subsequently planted on campus. Dr. Scott Egan, in the Department of Biosciences, was contacted by Rice administration to ascertain the ancestry of the Rice moon tree.

Here is the Rice News story that reports what we found . . . LINK