A mystery surrounding a tomato lost in space came to an end after eight months, as the vegetable (or fruit) surprisingly showed up on the International Space Station (ISS). After an off-Earth harvest in March, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio had lost the remains of a tiny tomato.
“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,” said NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, while speaking in a live-streamed event on Wednesday (Dec. 6) which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ISS.
The minor incident of losing the tomato became a large inside joke for Rubio in NASA. The 1-inch-wide (2.5 centimetres) Red Robin dwarf tomato was among the Veg-05 experiment’s final harvest that was tended by Rubio himself through some growing pains.
The samples of the tomatoes were received by each ISS astronaut after March 29. However, Rubio’s share was kept in a Ziploc bag and it floated away before he could take a bite from it.
On September 13, the astronauts first discussed the missing tomato publicly when Rubio held his own event in space which marked a United States astronaut’s unexpected record year in orbit.
“I spent so many hours looking for that thing,” joked Rubio, amid the ISS livestream in September. “I’m sure the desiccated tomato will show up at some point and vindicate me, years in the future,” he added.
Rubio looked for lost tomato for 18 to 20 hours
The ISS is bigger than a six-bedroom house and things can float away easily to unexpected corners in microgravity. NASA usually follows the procedure of checking vent intakes for such objects. However, in a station filled with 25 years of stuff, it is easy to lose some items.
On October 13, Rubio was asked by reporters regarding the lost tomato, nearly two weeks after he returned home safely with his delayed crew after spending 371 days in space.
Rubio said that the tomato was never found despite “18 to 20 hours of my own time looking for that.”
“The reality of the problem, you know — the humidity up there is like 17 per cent. It’s probably desiccated to the point where you couldn’t tell what it was, and somebody just threw away the bag,” said Rubio, adding, “Hopefully somebody will find it someday: a little, shrivelled thing.”
(With inputs from agencies)
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)