NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) recently solved a strange space mystery involving a missing tomato. A 1-inch-wide Red Robin dwarf tomato, part of the final harvest of the Veg-05 experiment, went missing after being harvested by astronaut Frank Rubio from Earth in March. Each ISS astronaut received tomato samples, but Rubio’s portion, stored in a Ziploc bag, floated away before he could enjoy it.
The missing tomato became a running joke, with Rubio playfully blamed for eating it. However, during a live broadcast event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ISS on December 6, NASA astronaut Jasmine Mokbeli announced the tomato’s discovery, relieving Rubio.
The tomato, which had been missing for more than eight months, was found by another ISS crew. Rubio, who spent hours searching for the floating vegetable, joked during a September livestream, „I’m sure the desiccated tomato will show up sometime and justify me in the future.”
The incident highlights the challenges of maintaining order on the ISS, a space larger than a six-bedroom house, where microgravity allows objects to move unexpectedly. Despite the tomato hunt, Rubio’s time on the ISS was filled with plenty of science experiments. Reflecting on his long stay, Rubio acknowledged the difficulty of being away from family and friends, but was thankful for the overwhelming support he received from the community.
While the lost tomato adds a light touch to Rubio’s work, it also provides insights into the challenges of growing plants in space, relevant to future lunar or Mars missions.