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Two Space Shuttle White Pine Trees Planted in Manalapan

These Eastern White Pine trees traveled aboard the Columbia Space Shuttle as seeds.

The Manalapan Township Arboretum welcomes two new trees that came a long distance - space. That’s right, two Eastern white pines that traveled aboard the United States Space Shuttle Columbia as seeds are now trees planted in Manalapan.

The New Jersey Forest Service, Community Forestry Program and the New Jersey Community Forestry Council provided the Eastern white pine seeds to Astronaut Gregory T. Linteris, Ph.D., a New Jersey native. The seeds were given to Linteris to be a part of a Seed Germination Kit that traveled to space within the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia during its flight on April 4, 1997.

The seeds traveled at 17,500 miles per hour for a distance of 1.5 million miles. After returning from the space flight, the seeds were returned to the New Jersey Forest Service. The seeds were then germinated at the Community Forestry greenhouse in Jackson as a part of the Heritage Tree Program.

Generally, the germination rate for an Eastern white pine takes 10 to 14 days. However, the seeds that traveled in space germinated in half the time. The reason for the quick germination is because the seeds experienced the weightlessness of space.

The Eastern white pines trees that grow from the seedlings which traveled through space pay tribute to the seven astronaut crew who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Both trees are planted right next to one another in the Manalapan Township Arboretum to the left of the path that travels from the Sept. 11 memorial trees and the Veteran’s Plaza trees.

Even though [the trees] were moved to the Arboretum several years ago, we did not get them marked because we wanted to make sure they survived first,” Shade Tree Committee Chair Beth Ann Fazlibegu said.

The trees are currently over seven-feet-tall and thriving, Fazlibegu said. She and Shade Tree committee member Maureen Shames presented the Township Committee with a large framed poster explaining the history of the Eastern Shuttle Pines last week.

Mayor Susan Cohen said the poster will be hung within the Manalapan Township Municipal Building for display.

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