NASA Receives Tomatoes Grown in Space for Study and Potential Use in Long-Duration Missions

On April 15, 2023, a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) over the Indian Ocean, carrying nearly 4,300 pounds of scientific samples and hardware for NASA. Among the cargo were tomatoes grown in space as part of the Veg-05 experiment, which aimed to examine the effects of light quality and fertiliser on fruit production, microbiological safety, and nutritional value.[0] The tomatoes, grown in the station's ‘Veggie' facility, will be transported to NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida for further analysis.[1] The experiment could help provide fresh food for astronauts on long-duration missions and could be adapted for use on Earth to provide fresh produce for those without access to gardens.

The Veggie facility on the ISS offers an opportunity to develop a ‘pick-and-eat' fresh vegetable component to food on the space station.[2] Growing plants in space is crucial for extended missions, as it provides fresh food and improves crew members' quality of life. The crew tended to the plants for 104 days, nurturing them with water, pollinating them, and monitoring their health and development.[0]

In addition to the tomatoes, the spacecraft also carried the Solid Fuel Ignition and Extinction – Growth and Extinction Limit (SoFIE-Gel) investigation, which studied burning in microgravity to improve the safety of crew members on future missions. The data collected could increase understanding of early fire growth behaviour, inform the selection of fire-resistant spacecraft cabin materials, validate flammability models, and help determine optimal fire suppression techniques.[3] Gel samples from the investigation will be returned to Earth for further analysis.[4]

The undocking of the SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft was broadcasted live by NASA, with coverage starting at 10:45 a.m. EDT on NASA Television, the NASA app, and online.[3] After re-entering Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft made a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida.[5]

Meanwhile, preparations for a series of spacewalks from Roscosmos are ongoing at the space station, with Commander Sergey Prokopyev and Flight Engineer Dmitri Petelin set to manoeuvre an experiment airlock and a radiator from the Rassvet module to the Nauka science module over a set of spacewalks set to begin on April 18.[6] Flight Engineer Andrey Fedyaev will assist the duo in monitoring their excursions, operating the European robotic arm, and helping them in and out of their Orlan spacesuits.[6]

The return of the scientific samples and hardware from the ISS is a significant step in advancing space research and exploration.[7] It will allow scientists to analyse the effects of spaceflight on various materials and plants, potentially leading to improvements in the safety and sustainability of space travel.[2]

0. “Tomatoes grown in space to reach Earth today” Hindustan Times, 15 Apr. 2023,

1. “Tomatoes grown in space's miniature greenhouse heading back to Earth today | Watch LIVE” msnNOW, 15 Apr. 2023,

2. “Tomatoes grown in space will return to Earth this weekend” Metro UK, 14 Apr. 2023,

3. “NASA's SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft set to return with scientific samples and hardware from the ISS” The Southern Maryland Chronicle, 14 Apr. 2023,

4. “SpaceX Cargo Dragon Splashes Down, Returning Science to Earth for NASA” NASA Blogs, 15 Apr. 2023,

5. “SpaceX cargo spacecraft to return to Earth with science samples” ecns, 13 Apr. 2023,

6. “Botany, Heart Research Ahead of Dragon Departure and Spacewalks” NASA Blogs, 10 Apr. 2023,

7. “SpaceX Cargo Dragon undocks from ISS, heads back to Earth” UPI News, 15 Apr. 2023,

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