A Former Astronaut Details His Quest To Grow Cannabinoids In Space

nasa weed

This could be 'a breakthrough from a biological science perspective'

Historically, the primary purpose of space travel has been to deepen our understanding of the cosmos through rigorous scientific experiment after scientific experiment. In the annals of fake viral images, the one of former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield holding a bag of weed aboard the International Space Station is quite the height. But that may not always be the case. With the advent of space tourism and the skyrocketing cost of putting travelers into orbit, the idea of ​​a recreational space vacation is starting to seem less far-fetched than it did a decade ago.

And speaking of recreational activities, off-world tourism raises the intriguing possibility of getting high in space.

“People have been chewing mushrooms and various kinds of roots and berries forever,” retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield told Futurism, “and so there's always a role in society or human behavior for that. ".

Chris Hadfield has flown on NASA's Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz, he has spent time on both the Russian Mir space station and aboard the International Space Station. He also seems extremely cool, he had caused a stir on social media by posting photos and videos of life on the ISS, he even released an album of songs, accompanied by his guitar, recorded there.

Perhaps inspired by his cool attitude, his popularity has seen him photoshopped holding a large bag of marijuana in space, a finger to his lips as if to signal a little secret to the viewer.

In fact, according to Mr. Hadfield, any form of impairment in space would currently present too great a risk.

"On the space station, if there's an emergency, you're the fire department," he said. "You can't be intoxicated or inebriated or anything else, just because if something goes wrong then you die."

But that doesn't mean he doesn't envision the day when space will be populated enough for astronauts to let off steam.

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“Once the population is large enough, once the situation is stable enough, people will want to, you know, have a drink,” he said. “People are going to want weed. »

It's possible that Hadfield himself will end up ushering in some of that future. Last year, for example, he joined the board of a biotech company called BioHarvest.

“This company has been working on cannabis for years,” he told Futurism, she found a new way to grow trichomes using bioreactors, much like lab-grown meat.4 min

In other words, rather than wasting the water, pesticides and other resources needed to grow this "very delicate plant", as Hadfield put it, bioreactors could allow future astronauts to to go straight to the point.

"It's basically replicating the natural growth process of the part that's useful to us, but without the whole plant," Hadfield explained.

In August, BioHarvest announced that it had found a new way to reliably create stable coral-like structures composed of multiple cannabis trichomes, a process it says could potentially "revolutionize cannabis production."

Hadfield was quick to clarify that while recreational use of cannabis in space is certainly warranted, that is not the "original intent" of BioHarvest's technology, despite its "great potential".

Additionally, BioHarvest CEO Ilan Sobel told Futurism that "the substance is not yet regulated for the International Space Station."

But “once cannabis is federally legalized in the United States,” says Sobel, BioHarvest’s process for growing cannabinoids “could represent a breakthrough from a biological science perspective” in a microgravity environment. .

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In fact, space might even be the perfect environment to produce out-of-this-world, medical-grade cannabinoids.

“We see the possibility of cultivating high-value minor cannabinoids in much larger quantities than on Earth,” Sobel said.

For now, the focus remains on medical applications.

“These unique full-spectrum cannabis compositions could have significant value in providing more optimized treatment solutions for many palliative diseases for which current synthetic pharmaceutical compounds do not provide adequate solutions,” Sobel said.

For now, BioHarvest is focusing its efforts on providing future astronauts and humans on the ground with nutrients suitable for microgravity, rather than a way to get high.

To do this, the company is working with another startup called Space Tango to "modify its bioreactors for use on the International Space Station," according to Sobel.

The great advantage of growing cells in this type of culture medium is that for a given calorie of energy, or for a given dose of nutrient, it is more efficient in terms of mass and volume, Alain Berinstain told us. , CEO of Space Tango. It is also possible that nutrient cultivation is necessary for space travelers on long journeys.

That's more or less what piqued Hadfield's interest as well.

"What really attracted me to BioHarvest was the scalability of the biotech platform, and how it can solve a lot of the agricultural problems we face in feeding 10 billion people," he said. he told Futurism.

Cannabinoids are "just part of the things we grow," he added, and he believes "recreational cannabis in space still has a long way to go."

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