Funny find: The tomato was considered lost on the ISS for eight months

Among the funniest finds aboard the International Space Station (ISS) was a tomato that was thought to have been lost for eight months. Who lost and found a space vegetable?

NASA astronaut and Expedition 68 flight engineer Frank Rubio checks the harvest of tomatoes growing on the ISS as part of the XROOTS Space Botany Study on October 14, 2022. Photo: JAXA

One of the problems of living in microgravity is that things are never where the astronauts left them. For example, when the crew goes beyond the ISS into outer space, astronauts have to use cables to keep themselves and their instruments from accidentally flying off. Last month, the astronauts did not hold the tool bag, which became a temporary satellite of the Earth, in this way.

Astronauts have much more freedom of movement inside the station. But the problem of losing things still exists. Ask record-breaking astronaut Frank Rubio, who lost the infamous tomato in early 2023.

The tomato was the final harvest of the Veg-05 experiment on growing crops on the ISS using various types of fertilizers and lighting levels most suitable for cultivating vegetables in space. The experiment included growing chili peppers, cabbage, radishes and others. The crew members even consume some of the fruits.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio in the Cupola module. Photo: NASA

But when Frank Rubio decided in March to feast on some of his own harvest from tiny tomato plantations, the plucked dwarf tomato flew away. Rubio spoke about the lost vegetable live on air after returning to Earth in September after a record-breaking stay in space. “I spent so many hours looking for it. I’m sure the sundried tomato will show up at some point and vindicate me in the future,” Rubio said.

And finally, the tomato was found. It was detected by NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli, who reported the find in a live broadcast dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the ISS. “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,” Jasmin Moghbeli said during the broadcast. 

Rubio joked that he spent many hours searching for his lost prize, as fresh fruits and vegetables are highly valued by astronauts, who eat mostly freeze-dried food. However, growing vegetables in zero gravity is not only beneficial for the physical health of space travelers but also important for their mental comfort and well-being.

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