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Hemp In Space: Researchers Send Hemp Plants To International Space Station

Growing hemp in outer space might seem like something from a futuristic sci-fi novel by Haruki Murakami, but in actual fact, it’s a real endeavor of the modern cannabis era. Yes - growing hemp in space is a real project. Scientists, physicists, and botanists at Space Tango are experimenting with growing hemp in the absence of what is arguably the most important physical force on the planet: gravity.

Space Tango, who pride themselves on being pioneers of the commercialization of space “real estate” through bioengineering and manufacturing in microgravity hail from the heart of Kentucky. They announced their space hemp project in October 2018, with their primary interest being in the manufacture of biomedical products. While hemp can be used to manufacture a diverse range of products, Space Tango is mainly concerned with how the lack of gravity affects the biosynthesis of cannabinoids. Ultimately, their vision is that manufacturing hemp in microgravity will give way to “exponential growth of new knowledge, benefits to mankind and capital formation”.

Hemp in space: how it all came to be

Where does someone even get the idea to grow hemp in a place which lacks the most crucial aspect of life on earth; gravity? Virtually all life rests on the premise of gravity and thanks to gravity, this whole planet as we know it is held together. The idea was birthed by Kris Kimel, co-founder of Space Tango when he was still the president of the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC). According to Kimel, this is where the whole idea of cultivating hemp in microgravity started.

Up until now, there has already been almost a decade of research in this new avenue of space botany. Space Tango has partnered with Anavii Market, an online Cannabidiol marketplace that is also obviously quite interested in what a space garden can provide for the cannabis industry. Together with Anavii Market, Space Tango intends to manufacture a fully viable CBD product that sets a new goal for industry standards.

Kimel and his team at Space Tango recognize that growing hemp in space can open up new pathways and new ways to understand hemp in a way we would, quite obviously, never see on Earth. Before the decision to play with hemp in space, Space Tango was already doing it with other botanicals. Space Tango has already developed medical implants which can now only be manufactured in space.

How does hemp grow in space?

To any of us with a green thumb, it sounds completely counterintuitive to grow hemp in the absence of gravity. But we are obviously talking about extremely advanced technology and a team with a highly developed interest.

There are already two, permanently installed research and development laboratories on the International Space Station dedicated to this project. The laboratories are made up of individual components, of which there are 21, called Cube Labs. These Cube Labs are artificially intelligent growing environments which reduce the necessity for hands-on cultivation practices. We are essentially talking about the AI of weed growing - much more elaborate than any automated indoor growing system we have on Earth.

Each Cube Lab is the size of a tissue box and operates independently. It can send images and data in real-time back to Earth so that Space Tango knows from one moment to the next what is happening in their remote hemp garden. Fundamentally, the team at Space Tango believe that they can enhance cannabis and the power of cannabinoids using the technology of Cube Labs. The purpose of Cube Labs and the rest of the microgravity hemp project is to develop medical solutions that can be applied down here on Earth.

Experimentation and the future of space hemp

For most of us who have ever grown anything, the dawn of hydroponics was as though alien forms of cultivation had landed on Earth. So if there’s any reluctance by hobbyist growers to cultivate in the absence of soil, then there’s definitely some controversy surrounding cultivation in the absence of gravity. Yes - it’s bizarre, strange and generally a difficult concept to grasp for most cannabis enthusiasts down here on Earth.

At the moment, the entire project by Space Tango is still just an experiment. While the goal is to send potent and effective cannabinoid-based medicines to Earth, the project is still in its initial stages. Testing is still taking place to design the technology, and it will likely take quite some time of analysis to fully develop technology for cultivation in microgravity.

Kimel believes that cultivating hemp in space will make way for treatments for certain ailments that we simply can’t develop on Earth. Cultivating in microgravity may encourage plants to produce an array of characteristics that are impossible to develop on Earth because of the conditions. Ultimately, these medicines can be used to treat stubborn conditions that until now, have been extremely difficult to cure such as migraine headaches and epilepsy.

The outer-space hemp project is still in its initial days of experimentation, and we’re probably going to see a lot of development in coming years. Given how little we know about what could happen in outer space, only time will reveal the true potential of cultivating in microgravity way out there at the International Space Station.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

By Sheena Jordan
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