In a delightful lost and found mystery, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have finally located a tomato that was lost somewhere in the station for eight months.
One of the challenges of living in microgravity is that things don’t stay where you put them. For example, when astronauts leave the ISS on a spacewalk, they have to use tethers to keep themselves and their instruments from floating away. Inside the station, they have more freedom of movement, but the problem of things floating around still remains. Just ask astronaut Frank Rubio, who infamously lost a tomato earlier this year.
The tomatoes were part of ongoing crop growing experiments on the ISS, which include growing peppers, kale, radishes and more. The crew members also get to eat some of the fruits of their labor. But when NASA’s Rubio went to enjoy his share of the crop from the station’s tomato plants in March, his dwarf tomatoes floated away before he could enjoy them.
Rubio discussed the lost tomato in a livestream after returning to Earth in September following a record-breaking sojourn in space, Space.com reports. “I spent several hours looking for that thing,” Rubio said. “I’m sure dried tomatoes will show up at some point in the future and prove me right.”
And now, at last, the tomato has reappeared. In another livestream celebrating the ISS’s 25th anniversary, NASA astronaut Jasmine Moghbeli addressed the pesky tomato: “Our good friend Frank Rubio, who went home [in September], eating tomatoes has been blamed for a long time. But we can absolve him. We got tomatoes.”
Rubio joked that he had spent hours and hours searching for his lost prize, as fresh fruits and vegetables are highly valued by astronauts, who rely primarily on pre-packaged foods. Live. Growing food in space is considered important not only for the physical health of astronauts, but also for mental health and well-being.
The crop that produced the tomatoes was the final crop of the Veg-05 experiment, which saw astronauts grow salad crops to experiment with the type of fertilizer and light levels needed to grow vegetables in orbit. Are the best.