Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural technology company, hopes to partner up with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch cannabis and coffee into space to see what kind of effects zero-gravity and the radiation from space may have on their DNA. To accomplish this research, Front Range Biosciences is also partnering with SpaceCells USA and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado in Boulder. 

Cannabis in space

Cannabis in Space

In March 2020, they intend to take up to 480 plant cell cultures and living plants in a unique climate-controlled incubator up to the International Space Station on its 20th mission. The plant cultures will hang out on the ISS for around 30 days before being returned to Earth, where scientists from Front Range Biosciences and their partners will then examine them to see what effects microgravity and radiation may have had on their genes. 

“This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures,” Jonathan Vaught, co-founder, and CEO of Front Range Biosciences said in a statement.

“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,” he said.

A garden variety of low-THC (less than 5%) cannabis strains and other plants will be hand-selected and brought to the ISS aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX. A few different coffee varieties will also make the trip, according to Rolling Stone

When asked about cannabis in space, Peter McCullagh, CEO of SpaceCells, told Rolling Stone., “These are big ideas we’re pursuing, and there’s a massive opportunity to bring to market new chemotypes, as well as plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions. We expect to prove through these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to climate change.”

According to a report conducted by more than 100 experts from 52 countries, the world’s land and water resources are being used and neglected at “unprecedented rates.” Half a billion people live in places that are currently feeling the brunt of climate change where once lush valleys are turning to desert. Soil is being lost anywhere between 10 to 100 times faster than it’s forming, upsetting the delicate balance of plants and animals, and putting pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself. 

However, this experiment and others like it can help us get a better understanding of plants and how they respond to unique environments. The results of these experiments can teach us more about growing hardier plants on Earth. As our planet changes, plants we already have may no longer be able to thrive. Research conducted on cannabis in space (along with other plant species) will help us develop hardier plants that thrive within our changing environment. 

“These are big ideas we’re pursuing, and there’s a massive opportunity to bring to market new plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions,” Peter McCullagh, CEO of SpaceCells, said in a statement. “We expect to prove through these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to climate change.”

Additionally, the team hopes that everything they learn about cannabis in space within this experiment will help them to conduct more in-depth investigations in the future. One example is one where astronauts will harvest and preserve space-grown plants at different points of their growth cycles to better understand their genes every step of the way. 

“This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential,” said Louis Stodieck, Chief Scientist of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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