Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have announced the discovery of an elusive space-grown dwarf tomato that went missing over eight months ago.
The diminutive Red Robin tomato, measuring a mere 2.5 centimeters wide, was part of the final harvest of the Veg-05 experiment designed to explore the impact of spaceflight on fruit crop growth.
Following the harvest on March 29, each crew member received a crop sample in a plastic bag and was asked to rate the flavor, texture, and juiciness of the produce grown under different lighting conditions.
However, US astronaut Frank Rubio, who was a part of the Veg-05 agricultural experiment, claimed that his portion had floated away before he could take a bite, which was met with playful skepticism by the rest of the crew.
“Our good friend Frank Rubio, who headed home [already], has been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato. But we can exonerate him. We found the tomato,” NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said during a live-streamed event last Wednesday that celebrated the ISS’ 25th anniversary, as cited by space.com
The astronaut did not specify where the tiny veggie was located on the gigantic space station or in what condition it was found.
The tomato, which had become an amusing anecdote among ISS crew members, was initially brought to public attention by Rubio in September during an event he held in space. This occasion marked an unexpected record-setting year in orbit for the American astronaut.
“I spent so many hours looking for that thing,” Rubio said at the time. “I’m sure the desiccated tomato will show up at some point and vindicate me years in the future.”
He then mentioned it again after his return to Earth, telling journalists in October he spent 18 to 20 hours of his time looking for the fruit, but it never showed up.
Francisco ‘Frank’ Rubio, a lieutenant colonel in the US Army, had accidentally set a new record for the longest US spaceflight. He spent 371 days in orbit after his Russian Soyuz spacecraft sprung a leak in December 2022.
Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin safely arrived home on September 27 in a replacement craft, six months after their initial return date.