In an effort in learning how life thrives in space, heading to the International Space Station (ISS) and with the help of SpaceX cannabis and coffee will be making their way to space early next year.
According to Newsweek, Front Range Biosciences—in collaboration with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is sending cannabis and coffee plants to the ISS in March 2020; SpaceX’s next scheduled mission. Instead of the Cannabis-Sativa plant, they will be sending hemp cells, which contain low levels of psychoactive compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences said in a statement provided to Newsweek. “There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations. This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to earth and if there are new commercial applications.”
The company is planning to send 480 plant cells in a special incubator that regulates temperature aboard the ISS for roughly 30 days. The cells will then return to Earth where scientists will examine them to see how microgravity and exposure to space radiation have affected the gene expression of the plants.
As the planet’s climate is changing, the company hopes to understand and learn how plants react to the pressure of space levels, in order to influence how plants are grown on Earth. Learning how plants respond to unique environments—like space—can help agricultural technology companies to develop new, hardier varieties that can grow in harsh conditions.
Hemp is going to space 🚀 pic.twitter.com/WQwzEEFT1e
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 15, 2019
“In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-cycle, so we can analyse which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off,” Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a statement.