"We can exonerate him. We found the tomato."
Grand Theft Tomato
A scandal on board the International Space Station has finally been put to bed.
For months now, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio has been accused by his fellow crew members — in jest, they say, mostly at least —of eating a tiny tomato that was laboriously grown on board the space station.
But as it turns out, Rubio was innocent.
"Our good friend Frank Rubio, who headed home [already], has been blamed for quite a while for eating the tomato," NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli said during a live stream celebrating the station's 25th anniversary.
"But we can exonerate him," she added in the footage, spotted by Space.com. "We found the tomato."
Crime and Punishment
Rubio flew to the space station on board a Soyuz spacecraft in September 2022 and made his return just over a year later due to delays caused by the same capsule starting to uncontrollably leak coolant. The unusual incident forced Russia's space program to send a replacement spacecraft, which ended up taking several months.
While he was on board the station, Rubio tended to an experiment dubbed Veg-05, which involved growing tiny Red Robin dwarf tomatoes.
In late March, astronauts were each given a share of the harvest tucked inside Ziploc bags. Rubio says his share, however, floated away before he could eat the fruits of his labor.
"I spent so many hours looking for that thing," Rubio said during a September livestream. "I'm sure the desiccated tomato will show up at some point and vindicate me, years in the future."
In October, two weeks after returning to the ground, Rubio told reporters that he spent "18 to 20 hours of my own time looking for" the errant tomato, as quoted by Space.com.
"The reality of the problem, you know — the humidity up there is like 17 percent," he added. "It's probably desiccated to the point where you couldn't tell what it was, and somebody just threw away the bag."
Given Moghbeli's latest comments, he likely was spot on in his predictions.
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