The saga of the missing space tomatoes, one of the International Space Station’s (ISS) most lighthearted mysteries, finally reached its delicious conclusion in December 2023. This seemingly simple disappearance turned into a months-long whodunit, captivating the imaginations of astronauts and Earthbound civilians alike.
It all began back in 2022, during astronaut Frank Rubio’s historic 371-day spaceflight. As part of the Veg-05 project, dedicated to growing fresh produce in orbit, Rubio meticulously tended to several tomato plants using the ISS’s innovative XROOTS system. The project yielded a precious harvest of 12 red dwarf tomatoes, a triumph for space agriculture.
But then, the unthinkable happened. One, just one, of those precious space-grown tomatoes vanished. Accusations flew amongst the crew, with jokes of intergalactic rodents and mischievous extraterrestrial snackers filling the airwaves. The missing tomato became a meme, plastered on social media with the hashtag #FindTheRubioTomato.
Months passed, and the mystery deepened. Was the tomato truly lost, floating somewhere unseen in the zero-gravity labyrinth of the ISS? Had it become a victim of some malfunction or mishap? Or, the most tantalizing possibility, had someone succumbed to the irresistible allure of this space-born fruit and secretly devoured it?
Finally, in December 2023, the truth emerged, not with a bang, but with a gentle plop. During a routine cleaning, astronauts stumbled upon the culprit – the missing tomato, perfectly preserved but slightly squished, tucked away in a hidden corner of the station’s Japanese module.
While the mystery was solved, the story doesn’t end there. The return of the lost tomato serves as a reminder of the ingenuity and perseverance of humans pushing the boundaries of exploration. It’s a testament to the collaborative spirit of the ISS crew, even in the face of a missing fruit. And most importantly, it’s a delicious victory for space agriculture, proving that even the most delicate of Earth’s bounties can thrive in the harsh environment of space.
So, the next time you bite into a juicy tomato, think of the astronauts on the ISS and their intergalactic gardening feat. And remember, even in the vastness of space, a missing tomato can still bring a smile to our faces.
- NASA: https://www.livescience.com/space/space-exploration/nasa-astronauts-finally-find-1-inch-tomato-that-was-lost-in-space-for-8-months
- NPR: https://www.npr.org/2023/12/10/1218418262/missing-tomato-international-space-station
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/dec/09/space-orbit-mystery-international-space-station-tomato