SpaceX Is Sending Cannabis And Coffee To Space
SpaceX, Elon Musk's spacecraft manufacturing company, has teamed up with a Colorado research lab to send hemp and coffee plants up to the International Space Station in March.
Why, you may ask? Well, it's not just for LOLs - it's for a genuine scientific experiment, testing what happens to the plants in a zero-gravity environment.
Front Range Biosciences, an agricultural biotech company that breeds genetically consistent hemp and coffee varieties, partnered with the University of Colorado and a tech startup called Space Cells for the project.
More than 480 plant cell cultures will be launched into space aboard the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight, which is set for March 2020.
They'll then be transported to the space station, where they will be contained in a special incubator with regulated temperature for around 30 days.
A team of astronauts and a crew on the ground will monitor what happens to them, before they're transported back to Earth a month later.
When the cells return, Front Range Biosciences will examine the samples to see how microgravity and space radiation exposure may have altered the plants' gene expression.
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Dr. 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.
"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."
Reggie Gaudino, VP of research and development at Front Range, also said in a statement: "We are excited to learn more about both hemp and coffee gene expression in microgravity and how that will inform our breeding programs."
Louis Stodieck, director of BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, added: "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.
"This is a fascinating area of study that has considerable potential."
Bit of a step up from Elon Musk smoking weed on the Joe Rogan Experience, isn't it? Hopefully he won't get in quite as much trouble with NASA this time round...
Featured Image Credit: PA