ISS Astronauts To Receive Cannabis From SpaceX In 2020

Scientists are about to take marijuana study to another level. SpaceX will deliver 480 hemp samples to the International Space Station (ISS) to see how microgravity will affect plants in space. 

The company is scheduled to send the cannabis plants along with coffee tissue culture samples to the space station in March 2020 aboard the CRS-20 cargo flight. Front Range Biosciences will lead the research in partnership with SpaceCells USA Inc. and the University of Colorado, Boulder, IFLScience reported Monday.

Researchers on the ground will examine how zero gravity will cause changes in the plants’ metabolic pathways. Another goal of the study is to see whether plants would genetically mutate or undergo gene expression in space.

On the ISS, the plant samples will be placed in a space-made incubator that regulates temperature. Researchers hope the study will help identify new varieties of chemical expression in hemp and coffee and provide insights into how plants manage the stress of space travel.

"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."  

Front Range Biosciences said the experiment would last for nearly 30 days. The ISS study comes amid the growing interest of the public and governments in space tourism. 

Analyzing how plants will survive in space for “aesthetic and practical reasons” may further boost human presence outside of Earth.

“We already know from our pioneering astronauts that fresh flowers and gardens on the International Space Station create a beautiful atmosphere and let us take a little piece of Earth with us on our journeys,” NASA said in a blog post. “They’re good for our psychological well-being on Earth and in space. They also will be critical for keeping astronauts healthy on long-duration missions.”

Scientists studying plant growth in space already made key findings. One of the discoveries that became useful for astronauts was NASA’s Vegetable Production System. 

The technology allows scientists to carry a suitcase-sized garden to space for source of fresh food and for experiments in the absence of gravity. 

Cannabis Plant This picture taken on March 16, 2017 shows legal cannabis plants growing under eavy light in the greenhouse of Switzerland's cannabis producer KannaSwiss in Koelliken. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images