The Spider Who Braved Space Dies in Smithsonian

December 6, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Nefertiti, the spider who spun webs in space has died. The arachnid was the first jumping spider (Phidippus johnsoni) to have survived in space, after living in the International Space Station.

After returning to earth, Nefertiti was put on display in the Natural History Museum on November 29th, as a part of the museum’s Insect Zoo Gallery. But although it braved the stay in space for a 100 days, it couldn’t live through five days after landing.

The spider, named after the Egyptian queen, got it’s ticket to space thanks to a video contest called YouTube Space Lab. Amr Mohamed, an 18-year old, submitted the idea and as a result, the spidernaut docked into the International Space Station in July.

Nefertiti was a valuable study subject in space, and displayed how tough her species could be. The spider showed how it could adapt to zero gravity and continued living just like it would on earth, capturing prey and having regular feeding habits.

Even after returning to earth’s gravity, the spider could re-adapt to earth’s conditions and live as it used to before its space odyssey. The spider died of natural causes.

Arachnid species, like Nefertiti’s, have an average lifespan of around a year. The Smithsonian said Nefertiti was “a special animal that inspired so many imaginations”, and to honor her memory, the spidernaut will be included in the museum’s specimen collection.

Before Nefertiti, Arabella and Anita were the first spiders to spin webs in space. Both the spiders died on Skylab in 1973 and were donated to Smithsonian the next year.

Nefertiti probably won’t be the last to go to space, and I expect many more spiders will follow her web into space.

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