Industrial hemp seeds on board the international space station

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Hemp seeds found their way safely aboard the International Space Station last week. But is this the first time cannabis has been in space?

Back in October last year we reported on a mission to send industrial hemp to the ISS for research purposes.

Seeds from Kentucky-grown hemp arrived at the station last Monday local time, carried by SpaceX 17 that launched out of Cape Canaveral early the day before.

The companies behind the venture are Space Tango, Atalo Holdings and Anavii Market. According to the latter, the seeds will stay aboard the ship, housed in a “Space Tango Cube”* and will be returned to Earth in around a month’s time.

This isn’t an elaborate (and expensive) PR stunt – there could be important discoveries ahead.  This first experiment will assess the stability of the seeds after prolonged exposure to microgravity conditions; with more experiments to come.

“We’re particularly excited to see what happens to the chemical compounds found within the hemp plant, called cannabinoids,” states Anavii.

Unlike humans and other mammals that can experience significant health issues in space, perhaps hemp seeds will benefit from low gravity environments.

“The opportunities for the hemp plant are already quite vast, but if we can make a new discovery, a new improvement, a new cannabinoid, that could unlock a world of change,” says Annie Rouse, co-founder of Anavii Market.

There are many different cannabinoids in cannabis (the exact number is a topic of some debate), with the best known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). You can find these and the names of many others in HempGazette’s cannabinoids list.

As to whether this is first time cannabis has been shot into space – it seems officially it is. While seeds and a clone were lifted 19 miles above the Earth aboard a weather balloon in 2013, many would not consider this to be “space”. However, there’s reason to suspect perhaps this isn’t the first time cannabis has been in space, albeit that instance (if it occurred) happened very much on the down-low.

*These are actually called CubeLabs, which are produced by Space Tango. CubeLabs enable multiple biomedical and technology applications to run simultaneously and independently. You can learn more about CubeLabs here.

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