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Posted April 17, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Arboretum dogwood seeds headed to outer space

By Sally Voth

Virginia's flowering dogwoods are just beginning to blossom, but some will soon reach stratospheric heights.

The State Arboretum of Virginia has been asked to include several envelopes of the tree's seeds in the payload of a rocket headed to the International Space Station next month.

A representative from Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. called arboretum officials, saying it was common practice for items to be taken into space, and then brought back and given to supporters, or auctioned for charity and the like, arboretum public relations coordinator Tim Farmer said.

"Because everybody wants something that's been into space, right?" he added. "Because they're a Virginia company, they wanted seeds from Virginia's state tree, the flowering dogwood. It's also the state flower."

The dogwoods are just now starting to bloom at the arboretum, Farmer said.

"Virginia's dogwood trees are very ubiquitous in spring, and make the woodlands come alive," he said.

The state arboretum has put together 10 envelopes of seeds, and will get at least one envelope back, Farmer said. He's not sure if the seeds will then be planted on site, or auctioned off.

"We were excited [about the request]," Farmer said. "We're a scientific institution after all."

The arboretum is part of the University of Virginia's department of environmental science, he explained.

"So, for the chance to lend a hand to something as prestigious as a launch was a great opportunity," Farmer said.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is one of two companies that have contracts with NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, according to a news release from the arboretum. It says the seeds will be on the corporation's Antares rocket.

The Antares rocket was scheduled to have its inaugural flight Wednesday afternoon from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in the eastern part of the state, according to Orbital's website, www.orbital.com. The test flight was aborted and may be rescheduled for Friday, according to the Associated Press.

The site states Orbital develops and manufactures rockets and space systems for government and commercial clients. The firm also develops satellites and probes.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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