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NASA Astronauts Finally Find Tomato That Was Lost in Space for Months

After a months-long mystery, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station have finally located their famous missing tomato.

Astronaut Frank Rubio stands in front of one of NASA's botany experiments.
This photo was taken shortly before the tomato disappeared. Credit: Koichi Wakata/Japan Eurospace Exploration Agency/NASA

After a months-long mystery, the astronauts of the International Space Station wanted to give everyone a quick ketchup-date on their infamous disappearing vegetable.

While conducting a botany study 250 miles above Earth, scientists aboard the ISS managed to produce the first tomato harvested in space. Astronaut Frank Rubio had the honor of plucking the plump veggie from its vine. Rubio was also the team’s first suspect when the cosmic tomato went missing aboard the space station in March. 

In September, Rubio broke the record for the longest spaceflight for a United States astronaut, spending 371 days in the stars. After successfully returning to Earth in September, Rubio spoke at a NASA briefing in October, where he was more than happy to address the tomato-eating accusations he had faced on his cosmic trip. 

“I put [the tomato] in a little bag, and one of my crewmates was doing [an] event with some schoolkids, and I thought it’d be kind of cool to show the kids, ‘Hey guys, this is the first tomato harvested in space,’ Rubio said. “Then, I was pretty confident that I Velcroed it where I was supposed to Velcro it, and then I came back, and it was gone.”

Rubio goes on to explain that NASA is interested in experimenting with new botanical practices in space so astronauts can find innovative ways to grow fresh food in space and support longer missions. Rubio estimates he spent up to 20 hours searching everywhere for the misplaced vegetable. He was determined to clear his name. 

“I wanted to find it mostly to prove, like, ‘I did not eat the tomato,’” he said. Sadly, Rubio never found it. “A proud moment of harvesting the first tomato in space became a self-inflicted wound of losing the first tomato in space.” His original theory was that the tomato had floated away due to the low levels of gravity on the ship, which is a common occurrence. 

NASA was understanding of Rubio’s misplaced tomato. “Rubio’s journey in space embodies the essence of exploration,” they said in an official statement. Rubio abandoned his search, unable to locate his prized tomato. 

In image of the International Space Station.
There is very little gravity on the International Space Station, which is why Rubio first thought the tomato may have floated away. Credit: NASA/SWNS

Rubio has always hoped they would be able to find the misplaced produce. To everyone’s surprise and joy, his wish came true. 

During a NASA video conference from the ISS earlier this week, astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli commented, “We might have found something that someone has been looking for for quite a while. Our good friend Frank Rubio, who headed home, has been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato–but we can exonerate him: We found the tomato.” 

The crew all laughed. They did not reveal the location where the tomato was found or what kind of state it was in when they found it. (I’m not sure we would want to see it, anyway.) Thankfully, Frank Rubio was finally able to beat the hilarious tomato-eating accusations. 

An image of the current crew aboard the International Space Station
The current crew aboard the ISS recently came together to celebrate a milestone for the space station and announce they’d found the tomato. Credit: NASA

The conference with Moghbeli and the rest of the current International Space Station crew took place on Wednesday to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the collaborative space station. Countries such as the United States, Japan, Russia, and Canada share the high-tech science station. The crew came together to share updates on their work and celebrate many successful years of groundbreaking discoveries. 

The ISS team, along with other NASA teams, has certainly been busy lately. From flying spacecraft through sun explosions to taking huge leaps toward sustainable renewable energy, space has provided many new opportunities to explore solutions to current problems.

To learn more about Frank Rubio’s record-breaking time on the International Space Station, click here.

Mary Christine is currently studying English and French at Michigan Technological University. She enjoys reading mystery novels, watching horror movies, and spending a significant amount of her paycheck on coffee.

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