It was only a matter of time before we saw marijuana get sent into space. On March 2020, Elon Musk's SpaceX will deliver a payload from a US agricultural tech company consisting of tissue cultures of java coffee and hemp, a variety of cannabis.
During SpaceX's CRS-20, a payload from Front Range Biosciences will send up to 480 plant cells into space. One there, they will be housed in a special incubator, which regulates the temperature in super cold space and allows astronauts to monitor the samples for 30 days physically. The samples will also be remotely monitored from Earth in BioServe Space Technologies' operation center located at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
After a month in space, baring no delays, the cell samples will be sent back down to Earth where researchers from Front Range Biosciences will examine the samples. They will primarily study how microgravity and space radiation affected their growth and genes.
"This is one of the first times anyone is researching the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures," according to Dr. Jonathan Vaught, CEO of Front Range Biosciences.
Continuing his statement, Dr. Vaught said that "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 hopes that the results of this research help identify new possible varieties or chemical expressions in the plants. The study will also help scientists understand how plants manage the stress that is induced by space travel.
The company hopes that this research will also help the companies in creating new types and stocks of seeds. Due to the rising temperature of the Earth caused by climate change, several regions have become hostile to plant growth. The advent of private space travel has allowed companies such as Front Range Biosciences to commission and send research to the ISS, where its unique environment allows for new breakthroughs in research.
According to Louis Stodieck, Chief Scientist of BioServe Space Technologies, this is the first of many experiments. "In the future, we plan for the crew to harvest and preserve the plants at different points in their grow-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."
Unusual ISS Projects
The ISS is home to a lot of unusual projects. Anheuser-Busch, the company behind alcoholic beverages such as Budweiser, sent barley seeds to grow in the ISS. NASA also sent up Flatworms into space to study how gravity affects the regeneration and rebuilding of damaged organs and nerves. And for those who can't afford to go on a private trip to the ISS (which means the majority of us), we don't have to worry. NASA is working on a VR series documenting life aboard the ISS.