Okay, so it’s actually not weed, it’s hemp. So no, it won’t be getting astronauts stoned in space.
Hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, is about to be launched into the cosmos. That’s right, Houston. There among the stars and planets and aboard the International Space Station will be its new home, where scientists will soon attempt zero gravity cannabis cultivation.
Kentucky-based Space Tango is the brains behind hemp’s space launch, a company that’s become a leader in research on the International Space Station over the past few years. They’ve partnered with two Kentucky hemp companies and will soon begin to perform plant biology experiments on hemp in space.
This experimental research that sounds like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie will take place in labs no larger than a microwave that are all housed together in a larger microgravity environment in the space station.
Space Tango was founded by former NASA engineer Kris Kimel in an effort to determine whether growing plants (mainly for food) might be more effective in space. Zero gravity, Kimel supposed, could present a less stressful environment for the plants.
Joe Chappell is an advisor to Space Tango. According to Chappell, “When plants are ‘stressed’ they pull from a genetic reservoir to produce compounds that allow them to adapt and survive. When we send plants to the International Space Station, we eliminate one core, constant force to which the plants are well-adapted. Understanding how plants react in an environment where the traditional stress of gravity is removed can provide new insights into how adaptations come about and how researchers might take advantage of such changes for the discovery of new characteristics, traits, biomedical applications and efficacy.”
Research conducted on hemp in space will aim to explore different aspects of the plant but will focus primarily on its health and biomedical applications.
“We’re making a bet on CBD,” said Kimel. “There are clearly some significant biomedical applications, but it’s unclear what they are. Research has been dormant for 60-70 years, so there’s a lot we don’t know about hemp.”
It won’t be the first time plants have been grown in space. Onions, peas, cucumbers, lettuce, and more have all been grown in space. It will, however, be the first attempt to grow Cannabis sativa. And while it’s hemp and not marijuana that will be cultivated amongst the stars, it won’t be the first time the plant has made it out of Earth’s atmosphere.
In 2017, the first pound of marijuana was sent to space, an endeavor that originally started out as a publicity stunt to bring more attention to online cannabis guide company, Herban Planet. They teamed up with Sent Into Space, a company that specializes in sending stuff into space, to send the strain Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies to an altitude of some 118,000 feet. The space weed was then sold at Scottsdale, Arizona dispensary, Level Up.
Space Tango isn’t looking to grow weed in space that gets you high. It’s hemp they’re concerned with. And it will soon be cultivated amongst the cosmos.
“Each time a new type of physics platform has been successfully harnessed such as electromagnetism, it has led to the exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to humankind and capital formation,” said Kimel. “Using microgravity, we envision a future where many of the next breakthroughs in healthcare, plant biology and technology may well occur off the planet Earth.”
The future, it seems, is already here. What a time to be alive!