NASA found a stray, space-grown tomato that went missing for 8 months, clearing the astronaut they all thought ate it

image of astronaut with tomatoes on space station
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio with tomatoes growing on the International Space Station.Koichi Wakata/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
  • A long-lost space tomato has finally been found on the International Space Station.

  • When Frank Rubio's tomato floated away from him earlier this year, his colleagues joked that he had actually eaten it.

  • The tomato was grown as part of a NASA project to study how plants grow in microgravity.

An 8-month-long space mystery has been solved.

NASA astronauts on the International Space Station finally found a stray, space-grown tomato eight months after it first went missing.

And no one's probably happier than Frank Rubio, the astronaut that the crew thought had eaten it.

In a livestream interview on Wednesday, a team of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) shared the news.

The missing Red Robin dwarf tomato was grown in space as part of NASA's VEG-05 project. The experiment, launched late last year, is studying "crop growth, nutrient composition, microbial food safety, flavor, and psychological benefits for the crew onboard," NASA said in an April press release.

And it's not just tomatoes that can grow in space — the program has successfully grown several types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage, mizuna mustard, red Russian kale, and zinnia flowers, NASA says.

After the tomato harvest last March, each astronaut was given a tomato sample in a Ziploc bag, reported. The astronauts were told not to eat the fruit since there were concerns about potential fungal contamination, according to NASA.

But when one of the astronauts, Frank Rubio, accidentally let his tomato float away, his colleagues for months jokingly accused him of scarfing it down.

Rubio has since left the station, but now he can prove he's innocent.

"Our good friend Frank Rubio, who headed home, has been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato," NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said during Wednesday's livestream. "But we can exonerate him. We found the tomato."

Even before the tomato's discovery, Rubio was adamant that he wasn't a space fruit thief.

"I did not eat the tomato, and I wish I had at this point because I think everybody thinks I did," Rubio said in an interview in September. "I spent so many hours looking for that thing."

"I'm sure the desiccated tomato will show up at some point and vindicate me, years in the future," he added, laughing.

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