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SpaceX's Next Resupply Mission To Space Station Will Include Cannabis

SpaceX's Dragon capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station or ISS last Sunday, delivering about 5,700 pounds of cargo that includes supplies for crew living at the space station, genetically enhanced "mighty mice", and a floating robot.

The company's next resupply mission to ISS scheduled for March 2020 will include something just as unusual: a selection of cannabis plants. However, the plants are not being sent to space to give astronauts a 'high'.

Instead, they are plant cultures of hemp, a strain of cannabis that has low levels of the compound THC or tetrahydrocannabinol that induces the 'high' and hallucinogenic effect in the user.

Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products.

The plants are being sent to space as part of an experiment by agricultural technology company Front Range Biosciences.

Front Range Biosciences recently announced a partnership with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder to send hemp and coffee tissue culture to space.

The experiment is being targeted for transportation to the ISS aboard the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight scheduled for March 2020.

The mission will transport the plant cultures to space as part of a study by Front Range Biosciences to know how these plans respond to microgravity in space. The study will look at how plant cells undergo gene expression changes or genetic mutations while in space.

Front Range Biosciences said it will provide the plant cultures, while SpaceCells will provide the expertise, management and funding for the project. BioServe will provide the flight-qualified hardware to house the plant cultures and facilities on board the ISS to maintain the cultures under controlled conditions.

A special incubator will house up to 480 plant cell cultures and regulate their temperature in their temporary home aboard the ISS for about 30 days.
The environmental conditions for the cultures will be monitored remotely from BioServe's payload operations center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

After about a month in space, the plant cells will be returned to earth. Researchers at Front Range Biosciences will examine the plant samples and evaluate their RNA to determine how microgravity and space radiation exposure altered the plants' gene expression.

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