The American aerospace company SpaceX is planning to send marijuana and coffee to the International Space Station. The said items will be shipped off aboard SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight. It is set to lift off in March next year. Elon Musk’s company has collaborated with a research lab to send cannabis and coffee to ISS in low Earth orbit. Reports said agricultural biotech company Front Range Biosciences, University of Colorado and tech start-up Space Cells have teamed up for the project. The biosciences company is famous for growing varieties of coffee and hemp. The idea behind shipping coffee and marijuana to ISS is to test whether plants can mutate in a zero-gravity environment.
About 480 plant cell cultures will be sent to the ISS. There, plants will be stored in a special incubator for a month with regulated temperature. Both astronauts at the ISS and crew on the ground will keep an eye on the cells. The plants will be brought back to Earth after 30 days aboard Dragon cargo spacecraft. Back home, Front Range Biosciences will further study what effect microgravity and space radiation had on their genes. Also, they will see whether those mutations at the ISS hold up in Earth’s environment. Interestingly, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk a year ago had invited sharp flak from NASA after he was spotted smoking marijuana during a podcast.
Notably, it is a first of its kind study when someone is researching how microgravity and radiation in the space can affect plants. Front Range Biosciences in a statement said there is science that backs the theory of mutations in plants in space. Besides, it will help in determining when and which metabolic pathways are turned on and off at different points in the plants. Also, the findings can help advance the understanding of crops that are resistant to climate change and other environmental factors and lead to new breeding efforts. The ISS is a large spacecraft that orbits Earth. It houses astronauts who go up there for various scientific missions.