Nasa astronauts solve mystery of missing space tomato

Astronauts had previously grown lettuce, pak choi and various types of flowers on board the space station and it is hoped that berries and bell peppers can be cultivated in the future.

The plants are grown in special clay “pillows” because the absence of gravity means any water placed in normal soil would gather in bubbles and drown a plant’s roots.

Freshly grown fruit and vegetables promise to transform the food regime adhered to by astronauts, which includes dehydrated meals that are eaten after adding cold or hot water and “thermostabilised” cans or tins containing wet food like curries, ravioli or puddings.

Condiments, sauces and processed foods like biscuits, crisps and nuts can be taken to space as they are.

Salt and pepper are made into liquids so they do not scatter uncontrollably in zero gravity.

‘I love working with that little plant’

Mr Rubio said cultivating the tomato plant was one of the highlights of his time on the ISS.

“I love working with that little plant and seeing it grow and develop,” he said.

Mr Rubio’s record-breaking spaceflight was meant to last six months but a coolant leak from the capsule in which he was meant to return home meant his stay was extended by another six months.

He returned to Earth on Sept 27, landing in Kazakhstan in a replacement spacecraft.

“The fact that I was going to spend a whole year cooped up was a kind of torture for me, because I love being outside,” Mr Rubio said.

“But that’s part of the mission. It took a little bit of a mental shift and saying, ‘Hey, this is my world for the next 12 months and I have to deal with that.’”

The longest continuous period of time spent in space is 437 days. Valeri Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut, was on board Russia’s now-destroyed Mir space station for 14 months in 1994 and 1995.


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