Article by Madison Margolin, Motherboard
Going to space and growing weed have one major element in common. No, it’s not how high you get. It’s LED lights.
Neil Yorio, formerly a researcher at NASA, has taken his expertise preparing for space flight and applied it the craft of growing cannabis and other plants. Yorio. who used to work in NASA’s Bio Regenerative Life Support Systems program, is now the vice president of LED agricultural lighting at BIOS, a company that custom engineers LED lights for both human and plant use.
“I was looking at using a plant based life support system for long duration missions into space,” Yorio told Motherboard. Remember the character Mark Whitney growing potatoes in space in the movie The Martian? “I was involved in research at NASA, growing plants to keep people alive in that same scenario,” Yorio said.
Having plants in space provides oxygen to the crew, removes the carbon dioxide they exhale, provides food, and purifies water. But because the weight of lifting things off into space was so expensive, the NASA engineers needed to make sure the lighting used to nourish the plants was effective and lightweight—that’s where LEDs came in.
“It didn’t have glass, it lasts a long time, had the potential to be very energy efficient, and didn’t contain any hazardous materials,” Yorio said. And soon enough, LEDs became popular not only for space missions, but for cars, televisions, lamps, and yes, agriculture.