National Geographic : 1991 Nov
"I couldn't bear to throw the little seedlings away," admits Park Seed Company research director Jim Alston (above, at left), examining space tomato plants with company chairman William J. Park. Supplier of the 12.5 million tomato seeds flown on LDEF, the South Carolina firm later tested germination rates of 2,000 seeds. About 85 percent germinated-the same rate as earth-based control seeds. Surprisingly, radiation levels 5,000 times that on earth did almost no damage to the seeds, though one plant sprouted varie gated leaves (middle). Satisfied with their safety, 16-year-old Rod Neugebauer feeds a space tomato to his hog, My Lady, which, after eating them by the snoutful, won a prize at the 1990 Cali fornia State Fair.