Discovery of Space Tomato Relieves Record-Breaking Astronaut From Fracas

The discovery of an extraterrestrially harvested tomato has finally exonerated the famous astronaut accused of losing it, multiple outlets report.

Yet details are glaringly sparse.

Astronaut Frank Rubio set a United States record when he accomplished a 371-day space flight this September (beating the old record by 16 days). Along the way, he found the time to cultivate a bright red tomato — and lose it, somewhere on board the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA designated Rubio’s earthy mission the Veg-05 Experiment. “Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity” in outer space was a focus. As part of it, the astronaut would grow a crop of tomatoes aboard the space station.

He succeeded, in the form of at least one Red Robin dwarf tomato that he proudly harvested in 2022.

Zero gravity is a pain sometimes

To his dismay, he put it in a plastic baggie and promptly lost track of it.

“I put it in a little bag, and one of my crewmates was doing a (public) event with some schoolkids, and I thought it’d be kind of cool to show the kids — ‘Hey guys this is the first tomato harvested in space,’” Rubio said during an October media event. “I was pretty confident that I Velcroed it where I was supposed to Velcro it…and then I came back and it was gone.”

Fresh food in space is not a light-duty topic among astronauts, who eat freeze-dried food out of technical necessity for their entire stay. As the mystery of the tomato lingered, popular opinion turned against Rubio.

“Unfortunately — because that’s just human nature — a lot of people are like, ‘He probably ate the tomato,’” Rubio told CNN. “And I wanted to find it mostly so I could prove I did not eat the tomato.”

Rubio finally disembarked from his mission in late September, bound to reunite with his young family and happy in all appearances except for the tomato crisis.

Then finally, a Dec. 6 news conference commemorating the ISS’s 25th anniversary depressurized the situation. Several members of the ship’s remaining seven-person crew told international audiences that they had finally located the tomato.

Rubio had “been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato,” NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said. “But we can exonerate him.”

Tomato’s current whereabouts uncertain

But the crew offered no further information on the tomato’s whereabouts, condition, or other details.

Rubio had previously offered the opinion that the tomato had shriveled and “desiccated” into an unrecognizable object.

For his part, he’s just happy to be home. His record space flight was an accident to begin with — a forced delay due to a malfunctioning Russian shuttle craft. As of this writing, Rubio has not publicly commented on the discovery of the controversial tomato.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.