SpaceX To Send Cannabis, Coffee to Outer Space
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The International Space Station is going Dutch: A U.S. agricultural tech company is sending cannabis and coffee to the ISS as part of a zero-gravity experiment.
Tissue cultures of java and hemp (a variety of cannabis that contains low levels of psychoactive compound THC) will be transported via the next SpaceX resupply mission, scheduled for March 2020.
Up to 480 plant cells will be housed for about 30 days in a special incubator, which regulates temperature and allows astronauts to examine how plant cells undergo genetic mutations while in space.
Environmental conditions will be monitored remotely from BioServe Space Technologies’ payload operations center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
After a month away, the cells will return to Earth, where researchers at Front Range Biosciences can examine the plant samples to determine how microgravity and space radiation exposure altered their genes.
“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” Front Range Biosciences CEO Jonathan Vaught said in a statement.
“There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations,” he continued. “This is an opportunity to see whether those mutations hold up once brought back to Earth and if there are new commercial applications.”
These results, whatever they may be, could help farmers and scientists identify new varieties or chemical expressions in the seeds—as well as provide insight into how plants manage the stress of space travel.
Who knows? Maybe this will one day lead to CBD-infused cappuccinos on Mars.
Learning how plants respond to novel environments can help companies like Front Range Biosciences breed crops to thrive in Earth-bound areas affected by climate change.
“We envision this to be the first of many experiments together,” according to Louis Stodieck, chief scientist of BioServe Space Technologies. “In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their growth cycle so we can analyze which metabolic pathways are turned on and turned off. This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential.”
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