The surface of the moon looks a lot like a desert. It's dry, rocky, and sandy. There are no plants on the moon. Not even a small cactus.
In the year 1969 human beings from planet Earth first stepped on the moon. They walked around a bit and collected some moon rocks to take back with them. By mistake, they forgot to plant the acorn.
They had brought an acorn with them, along with a watering can and some potting soil. They were supposed to plant the acorn a few hundred yards away from the spaceship, but they forgot. They plain forgot.
You can't really blame them though. They had so much else to do. Every minute of every day they had something important to do. People from NASA were telling them what to do over the radio.
But what if they had remembered to plant the acorn? What if they had dug down a couple of inches in the loose soil, dropped some sweet-smelling potting soil into the hole, and gently placed the acorn in its new home? What if they covered the acorn with some more sweet-smelling potting soil, and gently watered it with their watering can?
An acorn doesn't need a lot of things to grow. It needs water, it needs soil, it needs sunlight, and it needs carbon dioxide gas. Now, there's plenty of soil and plenty of sunlight on the moon. But water and carbon dioxide are in short supply. That's why the astronauts brought a watering can with them.
They also brought a small plastic greenhouse with them. The plan was to place the greenhouse right over the planted acorn. Then the greenhouse was supposed to be filled with carbon dioxide gas.
After the acorn sprouted, it would pop up through the soil right in the middle of the greenhouse. There would be lots of water, soil, sunlight, and carbon dioxide for the small plant to grow tall and strong.
Plants both produce and consume carbon dioxide. A plant placed in a closed bottle, with good soil, sunlight and water, can survive for years without any care from human beings. (If you don't believe me, you can try this yourself at home.)
As the little oak tree grew, it would produce more and more carbon dioxide from its leaves. Its branches would reach out and bump into the walls of the greenhouse. One day, the top of the oak tree would poke its way through the top of the greenhouse.
When that happened, some of the carbon dioxide and oxygen would escape through this hole. But the strong plant would continue to grow and continue to produce more of these two gases.
So if you think of the moon's atmosphere as a small glass bottle in space, it might be possible for an oak tree to grow in its soil If only the astronauts had not forgotten to plant the acorn.
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[This story may be freely copied and distributed for noncommercial purposes. An animated multimedia version of this story (for Macintosh computers) can be downloaded by clicking here. This is a 2.5 megabyte file that takes about 12 minutes to download via 56kbps modem and about 1 minute to download via DSL or cable modem. This Director presentation includes lots of hidden buttons producing whimsically comical animations. Story by Phil Shapiro. Marcomedia Director creation by Gary Dauphin. Artwork by Maria Lyles.