Why is Elon Musk going to take marijuana into space?

Why is Elon Musk going to take marijuana into space?
Elon Musk, at an event in Germany. (Reuters)

SpaceX, the company of Tesla’s founder will take 480 cannabis plants to the International Space Station, in collaboration with NASA, an agricultural company and a university

In March 2020, the SpaceX CRS-20 spacecraft – owned by Tesla founder Elon Musk – will arrive at the International Space Station with something never seen at 400 kilometres high: Marijuana.

Front Range Biosciences (FRB), an agricultural company dedicated to the genetic alteration of hemp and coffee, has announced its agreement with the tech giant to send almost 500 cannabis plants into space, with the aim of studying how zero gravity affects to metabolism and gene expression to these plants. According to a statement, “FRB provides the cultivation and SpaceCells, the experience, management and financing of the project.”

Through a ‘software’, the evolution of the specimens will be monitored, together with the collaboration of NASA astronauts, who will enter the data into the system, and the University of Colorado (USA). The specimens that will be sent belong to a legal variant of marijuana, with low levels of THC, the psychoactive substance of cannabis, which alters the nervous system.

After a month in a space incubator, the marijuana and coffee plants will return to Earth, where they will be studied by Front Range Biosciences, with the aim of obtaining new commercial applications of both products, in addition to knowing how the plants handle stress after a change of environment as drastic as this.

“There is a great opportunity to bring new chemotypes to the market, as well as plants that can better adapt to drought and cold conditions. We hope to demonstrate through these and other missions that we can adapt the food supply to the rising temperatures caused by climate change”, said Peter McCullagh, CEO of SpaceCells, in a statement.

In the near future, both companies together, it is not ruled out that the spacecraft crew itself raises and cultivates these and other species, to analyze the evolution of plants throughout their growth process.