In a recent interview, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio revealed an intriguing tidbit from his time on the International Space Station. After harvesting one of the first tomatoes grown in space and bagging it for a presentation, the bag went missing, leading to some playful accusations from his fellow astronauts. Then, eight months later, the lost tomato reappeared, with a photo showing that there were actually two tomatoes in the rogue sample. Despite some discoloration, the tomatoes showed no visible microbial or fungal growth, according to NASA.
The tomatoes were part of the eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS) program, which explores plant growth in the space environment using hydroponic and aeroponic techniques instead of soil. Rubio, who spent a record-breaking 371 days on the ISS, had harvested a batch of tomatoes in March for study on Earth. He had intended to show the rogue sample to schoolkids in an event before it disappeared. Despite spending considerable time searching for it, the tomatoes were nowhere to be found until they unexpectedly resurfaced.
NASA has been conducting experiments on growing food in space and studying the effects of the space environment on plant growth for years. The mysterious disappearance and reappearance of the tomatoes have sparked curiosity, and NASA is expected to provide more information on the bizarre incident.