Moon trees lead Roosa to retire from Walter Anderson museum

In 2015, Rosemary Roosa took a moon tree to Paris to be planted.
In 2015, Rosemary Roosa took a moon tree to Paris to be planted. Courtesy Rosemary Roosa

“I’m a big believer in legacies.”

Rosemary Roosa was speaking in reference to her father, Apollo 14 Astronaut Col. Stuart A. Roosa, who took about 500 tree seeds into outer space more than 45 years ago. The astronaut’s daughter, who served six years as executive director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, turned in her resignation recently in large part to pursue furthering her father’s legacy.

“I turned in my letter at the board meeting June 27,” she said recently. “It was time to pass the baton. I’ve been here half a decade, and it’s time to move on. There are things I want to do.”

That would be the Moon Tree Foundation, which she and two others founded in honor of her father and NASA’s other astronauts. The other founders are Foundation board members Francisco Gonzalez and Mary Cracchiolo Spain. The motto is “Planting the Seeds of Inspiration.”

In early 1971, on the Apollo 14 mission, Roosa was the command module pilot, circling the moon along while Commander Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the moon for three days. The mission was the third one in which astronauts walked on the moon. The seeds he brought along on the mission had special meaning for Roosa, who had been a smokejumper years earlier with the U.S. Forest Service. When he returned from the mission, the seeds were germinated and became known as “moon trees.” Over the years, those seeds and their later generations have been used in the moon tree program.

Today, the Moon Tree Foundation plans to provide seeds and plant moon trees across the country and around the world to “promote peace and unification of our planet,” Rosemary Roosa said. “However, its primary function is an educational not-for-profit organization to inspire the youth and others about science and space, and to illustrate that our Earth is a finite resource which we must take care of for ‘peace for all mankind.’

“We chose to kick off our event around the same date of Neil Armstrong’s famous first footsteps on the moon 48 years ago, not because it is hard, but because it is easy,’” she said, a play on President John F. Kennedy’s quote in the 1960s: “We choose to go to the moon ... not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Moon trees have been presented and planted in places such as France, Italy and Switzerland and presented to Russian cosmonauts. Seeds have been given to Saudi Arabia, Roosa said.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1