Found: the tomato that was lost in space

Lost in space Photo: Flickr CC / NASA Johnson 

Houston, we no longer have a problem. One of the first tomatoes ever harvested in space was picked by astronaut Frank Rubio earlier this year. Unfortunately, although Rubio swore that he sealed the tomato in a plastic bag, it then went missing and hadn’t been seen since. Until last week.

NASA conducted agricultural experiments onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the Space Station’s Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, so they could learn ways to grow fresh food in space for longer term missions including growing red robin tomatoes. The ‘Rubio’ tomato turned out to be one of only 12 which successfully germinated and ripened.

The first man to lose a tomato in space

Rubio spoke fondly of his time growing and harvesting and, despite the tomato mishap Nasa officials say the work provided priceless knowledge that will benefit future generations of astronauts.

When the tomato went missing, blame of course focused on Rubio who was accused of eating it. The astronaut made history for breaking the record of the longest spaceflight for a U.S. astronaut, spending 371 days in space but he is famous (or infamous) as the man who allegedly ate the first tomato grown from seed and harvested in the Space Station.

“Frank Rubio has been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato. But we can exonerate him. We found the tomato,” said Nasa astronaut Jasmin Moghbel and reported by during a live stream to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ISS.

Is tomato a fruit or a vegetable?

Rubio estimated he spent up to 20 hours of his own time searching for the missing fruit (or vegetable?). “I wanted to find it mostly so I could prove that, I did not eat the tomato”, he said, adding, “A proud moment of harvesting the first tomato in space became a self-inflicted wound of losing the first tomato in space.” Rubio said he hoped someone would find it one day and more than 8 months later it has indeed been found.

Now all they need is a recipe for ‘space-dried’ tomatoes!

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.