A recently released deleted scene from the sci-fi thriller Alien: Covenant stoked ideas about the future of space weed. In the scene, a robot named Walter explains that he grows the mildly psychedelic crop inside the spaceship’s botany room, then offers spliffs to a distressed human. Though it’s unclear whether robots can get high on weed, there is little question that they can grow weed in space.
NASA can almost certainly grow space weed, but its primary concern is feeding astronauts on deep space missions, not getting them high. Pot, specifically, hasn’t been grown in space before, but NASA has successfully grown lettuce, dill, onions, wheat, rice, and cucumbers for 15 years under artificial light, so there’s little reason the space agency couldn’t grow weed.
Mars-bound astronauts and colonizers will eventually starve if they can’t grow their own plants, so NASA is intent on successfully cultivating space crops without any mishaps — because the results could mean starvation.
“I don’t see future space crews leaving the Earth for long durations without having the ability to grow their own food,” said NASA Space Dynamics Laboratory engineer Shane Topham in a statement about space farming in 2010. “The knowledge that we are gaining is enabling us to extend our exploration and future colonization of space.”
Plants are continually grown some 250 miles above Earth in the International Space Station. The growing environments are quite similar to indoor cannabis farms, where young cannabis plants are nurtured under artificial light. In early experiments, astronauts grew space lettuce in the LADA greenhouse, a tiny lab with about as much space as a microwave. Earlier this year, NASA launched a new generation of space farming experiments to the space station in a facility called the Advanced Plant Habitat. Inside this mini-fridge-sized laboratory, plants are exposed to different types of artificial LED light, along with 180 sensors and three cameras to see how to plants grow best.
On Earth, vast quantities of commercial pot plants are also grown inside, some in greenhouses and many inside industrial warehouses under LED lights. In some places, like Colorado, cannabis businesses prefer to grow indoors because it gives them precise control over every aspect of the growing process — and keeps the plants comfortable during winter blizzards.
Marijuana, it seems, is well-suited for being grown in artificial space environments. Indeed, there are challenges of growing plants in microgravity, but NASA is already sorting that out.
Perhaps weed will be grown on one of SpaceX’s Mars-bound shapeships. When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk introduced the Interplanetary Transport System last year, he did say that he wanted the “trip to be fun.”