SpaceX has a lucrative contract for resupply missions to the Space Station. The private space company’s Dragon capsule takes important supplies and experiments to the ISS every so often. And now, SpaceX is gearing up to deliver cannabis (popularly known as weed) and coffee to the Space Station.
No, it’s not for astronauts aboard the ISS to smoke up, get high, and be more efficient. Instead, coffee and weed will be spent in space for scientific purposes. For this project, biotech company Front Range Biosciences has partnered with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado.
Here, Front Range will provide the plant cultures of hemp (strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species, with very low levels of the psychoactive compound THC) and coffee. The funding and management comes from SpaceCells USA whereas BioServe takes care of hardware requirements for the research.
If no one’s going to get high (it’s highly unlikely) then you must be wondering – what’s exactly the aim of this research study? The company will be sending over 480 plant cell cultures up to the space station via SpaceX’s next cargo mission in March 2020. It’s to study the effect of microgravity and spaceflight (radiation) on the coffee and hemp cultures.
In a press statement, Jonathan Vaught, co-founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences said, “This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures.” He further added that, “There is science to support the theory that plants in space experience mutations.”
BioServe will monitor the coffee and hemp plants remotely from Earth to see whether they’ll mutate in any way aboard the space station. No, we are not expecting them to mutate and wreak havoc in space (need to stop watching violent sci-fi horror movies). Instead, the researchers want to see how these plants respond to new environments, keeping in mind the threat of climate change. There’s a slight chance that we will be cultivating crops in space in the future.
Next year, when SpaceX’s Dragon capsule carries the hemp and coffee plant cultures to space and back, we will learn whether the mutations hold up or not. If it does, then the researchers are eager to try out its commercial applications. But it’s wonderful to close 2019 on the note that “Elon Musk’s SpaceX is sending weed and coffee to space.”