This March, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, then a crew member on the International Space Station (ISS), harvested one of the most important tomatoes in history: the first tomato grown in space.
The experiment, which arrived at the ISS in October 2022, with SpaceX’s CRS-26 mission, was part of a study to develop a “continuous fresh food production system” for off-world life. Shortly after Rubio picked the fruit, it disappeared.
“I put the tomatoes in a bag, and one of my teammates was doing an event with some students, and I thought it would be cool to show the kids, ‘Hey guys, this is the first tomato harvested in space.’” The astronaut said in a recent interview after returning from a record-breaking 371-day mission at the orbiting laboratory. “So I was pretty confident that I had him where he was supposed to be, but he was gone.”
Rubio said he spent between 8 and 20 hours searching, but to no avail. “I wanted to find it mainly so I could prove I didn’t take it,” he said.
And he was telling the truth. In an interview with NASA TV, astronaut Yasmine Moghbeli brought good news.
“We may have found something that someone has been looking for for a long time,” she said. “Our good friend Frank Rubio, back home, has long been blamed for eating tomatoes — but we can exonerate him: we found tomatoes.”
However, neither she nor the Expedition 70 crew members, who were in the same interview, revealed where the tomatoes were hidden.
Four times astronauts lost things in space
During an extravehicular activity (EVA) with two NASA astronauts in November, an instrument bag was lost in orbit, making it impossible to continue missions. According to NASA estimates, the dropped bag should burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere in mid-April 2024.
This wasn’t the only time astronauts lost equipment during extraterrestrial missions. Find out more here.
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