A NASA astronaut lost his tomatoes on the ISS: here's what happened to them after 8 months in space. Photo

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Astronaut Frank Rubio lost two grown tomatoes on the ISS

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who spent 371 days on the International Space Station, found himself at the center of a detective story about the disappearance of two tomatoes that were grown in space zero gravity. The two vegetables, grown by Rubio himself, disappeared without a trace on the ISS and were found when the astronaut returned to Earth, after months of listening to jokes that he had simply eaten the tomatoes.

The story of the disappearance was told by the US space agency in its own video, which also showed what the tomatoes looked like, which had been in a small ziplock bag for more than 8 months.

The vegetables were grown as part of the eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS) experiment in 2022. The project allows growing a variety of vegetables without soil and in space gravity.

The experiment was conducted in the ISS vegetable complex and focused on factors such as light quality, fertilizer effects, microbiological food safety, nutritional value and taste acceptability.

The main goal of this long-term experiment is to understand whether plants that have genetically adapted to new (space) conditions can transfer their adaptive skills to new generations.

The project will also help identify genetic elements that increase the adaptability of plants to space flight.

This could ultimately allow future generations of space travelers to grow their own crops during future space missions.

Rubio was one of those involved in the project to grow tomatoes. During one of his routine checks, two relatively ripe tomatoes fell off a tomato branch that the astronaut was inspecting. So he reported it to his superiors, who packed the tomatoes in a ziplock bag, which disappeared without a trace on the not-so-large space station.

Rubio admitted that he spent up to 20 hours of his personal time trying to find the tomatoes to answer all the jokers who said he just ate the tomatoes, having a space snack. But his search came to nothing, and in September 2023, Rubio returned to Earth.

"I spent so many hours looking for this thing. I'm sure the dried tomato will show up one day and vindicate me, years in the future," the astronaut said.

And so it happened. On December 7, 2023, during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ISS, the astronauts said they had a surprise for their former colleague, as they found a package he had lost. The astronauts did not say where it had been for more than 8 months.

Instead, NASA showed what happened to the tomatoes during this time, and what they saw surprised many people.

Tomatoes lost on the ISS.

Unlike earthly tomatoes, which at best will last a week on the shelf before entering the rotting stage, the space tomatoes seemed to be much more hardy.

After eight months in the zip bag, they were a little depressed, but the tomatoes showed no visible signs of microbial or fungal growth. However, the astronauts were forbidden to eat them to avoid any risk of potential fungal infection.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that NASA already knows whether people will be able to grow plants on the Moon, as well as whether it is possible to grow potatoes on Mars.

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