Tomatoes in Orbit: NASA’s Zero-G Garden Adventure

By: | December 20th, 2023

Image by NASA

The two rogue tomatoes, which disappeared during astronaut Frank Rubio’s record-breaking stay on the ISS in 2022, were recently found tucked away in a plastic bag. While slightly dehydrated and squished, they were ultimately deemed safe and sound with no signs of spoilage.

The crew transformed the missing tomatoes into a lighthearted mystery. Playful accusations and speculation circulated around the station. So, when the tomatoes were finally discovered, it brought a mix of relief and amusement to the crew.

A Journey from Mischief to Discovery in the ISS Microgravity

Rubio had temporarily stored the food, which eventually floated away in the microgravity environment. NASA released video footage showcasing those two small tomatoes. The footage, found in the six-bedroom complex, revealed how the 17% humidity onboard affected food stored in a Ziploc bag.

The tomatoes were part of the eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System (XROOTS) experiment, which explored soil-free plant growth methods. During his 371-day stay starting September 2022, Rubio misplaced a portion of his harvested tomatoes, leading to a station-wide search.

The experiment employs hydroponic and aeroponic techniques, offering potential solutions for plant systems crucial in future space exploration missions. NASA emphasized that growing food on the ISS served as practical training for techniques essential in the exploration of the moon and Mars.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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