Astronaut Frank Rubio may feel right after finally finding the material that was missing from his watch aboard the International Space Station.
But many who learned of the news of the famous astronaut’s acquittal may have been left with a burning question: What do tomatoes that have been floating in zero gravity for months actually look like?
Thanks to NASA, we finally have our answer. In what may be a surprising development, it’s not one tomato, but two.
Space agency He shared the photo last week, along with a detailed description of the experiment that ultimately led to the fresh crop disappearing without a trace. It was Rubio’s tomato, so naturally he took the blame — until his fellow astronauts recently found the tomato remains and came clean.
“Other than some discoloration, there was no obvious microbial or fungal growth,” NASA said of the fruit, which was found in a dried and slightly crushed plastic bag.
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“I didn’t eat those tomatoes,” Rubio says.
NASA now says that Rubio accidentally lost track of tomatoes while harvesting for an orbiting root test system (X Roots) The experiment he conducted in 2022 while on board the space station. Previous media coverage suggested that the tomatoes were part of a different experiment Vegetarian-05which was conducted in 2023.
This means that the tomatoes, which Rubio thought he had stored in a bag, were much older than he thought eight months ago.
Rubio, who spent an American record 371 consecutive days in space, spoke about the hilarious scandal. In a media interview After returning to Earth in September.
“I was so confident that I put duct tape where I was supposed to put it, and it came back and it was gone,” Rubio said at the press conference. “I probably spent eight to 20 hours of my time searching for those tomatoes; I wanted to find them mostly so I could prove I didn’t eat those tomatoes.”
Rubio, A Former army doctor and helicopter pilot, I thought the fruit had dried out to the point that someone mistook it for garbage and threw it away. But somehow, the tomatoes managed to stay in a bag for about a year before other space station crew members found them, according to NASA.
NASA crew members aboard the station acknowledged this when they participated An event that was streamed live earlier this month To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the International Space Station.
“Our dear friend Frank Rubio, who was home for a long time, was blamed for eating tomatoes,” astronaut Yasmine Moghbeli said while laughing with her crewmates. “But we can exonerate him: we found the tomatoes.”
Rubio participated in tomato growing experiments
The rogue tomatoes were part of an experiment that uses hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants without soil in an attempt to find solutions for plant systems on future space missions.
It’s just one of many research projects conducted aboard the space station that have helped scientists understand how to grow small crops in space, according to NASA. The agency says such work could also improve techniques for growing plants for food harvested here on Earth.
It’s not the only produce-growing experiment Rubio has participated in during his year on the space station. Rubio was also part of Vegetarian-05 The study, which aims to address the need for a continuous fresh food production system in space using the station’s vegetable facility to grow dwarf tomatoes.
The research team studied the effect of light quality and fertilizer on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value and taste.
As for the rogue tomato found in the XROOTS experiment, NASA said it has been eliminated. But while we finally know what the tomato in question looks like, those waiting for NASA to reveal exactly where the product was found may have to wait a little longer.
Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]
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