In an interview this fall after returning to Earth from the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio shared a little anecdote from the mission. After he harvested one of the first tomatoes grown in space and wrapped them in a bag so that he could later present them on Earth, se he lost the bag and its contents. The other astronauts jokingly accused Rubio of eating them. However, now, eight months later, at the beginning of December, the tomatoes are lost unexpectedly found.
The photo released by NASA shows that there were indeed two tomatoes in the bag, but more interestingly – after eight monthswhich was packed in a bag, they don’t look bad at all. While a tomato would have long since succumbed to rot and mold on Earth after this time, Rubio’s tomatoes look just a little dried out. “Other than some discoloration, it had no visible microbial or fungal growth,” NASA wrote on its blog.
For several years, NASA has been experimenting with growing food on the ISS, studying how the space environment affects plant growth. Red dwarf tomatoes were grown under a program called eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System were not XROOTSwhich uses land instead a combination of hydroponic and aeroponic techniques. Rubio, who has been on the ISS for a record 371 days before his return in September 2023, harvested a batch of tomatoes in March that was sent to Earth and examined for the VEG-05 study. However, he kept two tomatoes and later wanted to show them to the students at a planned event after returning to Earth.