SpaceX to send cannabis to International Space Station in 2020

Front Range Biosciences announced on Tuesday that it was preparing to send hemp, a plant of the cannabis family, to the International Space Station (ISS) in March 2020. The U.S. company specializing in new technologies applied to agriculture will use SpaceX's services, it said in a statement.

The "culture samples" for scientific experiments will be among the goods transported as part of the CRS-20 refuelling mission. In addition to hemp, coffee plants will also be sent to the ISS. A total of 480 samples will be part of the trip, the company said. The objective is to study the effects of 30 days of lack of gravity on the metabolic pathway of the two species in cell culture. In particular, scientists will be able to observe changes in gene expression in space.

Studying alterations

On board the ISS, the plants will be stored in incubators and monitored remotely by specialists at the University of Colorado in Boulder (USA). A month later, back on Earth, the samples and alterations suffered will be analyzed. The process could bring new plant varieties or chemical expressions useful to growers and scientists alike.

"This is one of the first times we've studied the effects of microgravity and spaceflight on hemp and coffee cell cultures," says Jonathan Vaught, co-founder and CEO of Front Range Biosciences. There is scientific evidence that plants undergo mutations in space. This is an opportunity to see if these mutations persist on Earth and if commercial applications are possible."

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