Hemp will soon be on its way to space. The Colorado-based biotechnology company, Front Range Biosciences, is planning to send both hemp and coffee tissue cell cultures to space as part of a research project at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where scientists are attempting to study the effects of zero gravity on the plants’ genomics.
To accomplish this goal, Front Range Biosciences is partnering with SpaceCells USA, as well as with Elon Musk’s private aerospace technology company, SpaceX, which will be transporting the hemp (and the coffee) to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an upcoming cargo flight scheduled for March of 2020.
SpaceCells CEO, Peter McCullagh, told Rolling Stone in a recent press release, “These are big ideas we’re pursuing and there’s a massive opportunity to bring to market new chemotypes, as well as plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions. We expect to prove these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to climate change.”
The shipment will include more than 480 hemp plant cell cultures, which will remain in space for 30 days. Upon returning to Earth, the gene expression of the cells will be analyzed to give researchers valuable information about how the plants mutate in space.
With the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018, hemp was broadly legalized across the United States. The legislation included a strictly enforced 0.3% limit on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component found in marijuana.
According to its website, Front Range Biosciences “has developed an industry-leading genomics-driven breeding platform” for producing new varieties of hemp and coffee at high efficiency. Front Range Biosciences CEO, Dr. Jonathan Vaught, said in a recent press release, “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.”
“Ultimately, the results of the research could help growers and scientists identify new varieties or chemical expressions in the plant. This will also allow scientists to understand better how plants manage the stress of space travel and set the stage for a whole new area of research for the company and the industry.”
VP of Research and Development for Front Range Biosciences, Reggie Gaudino, said in another statement, “We are excited to learn more about both hemp and gene expression in microgravity and how that will inform our breeding programs.” As outlandish as it may sound, this actually isn’t the first time that hemp has gone into space.
Back in June, the Kentucky-based space research and manufacturing company, Space Tango, partnered with SpaceX and Anavii Market to bring the first hemp speeds to outer space as part of another mission to the ISS, however, the final results of their compelling research on plant growth in microgravity environments aren’t yet publicly available.