Pharos-Tribune

Online only

December 5, 2012

Spider adapted to life on space station

WASHINGTON — After a space voyage of almost 42 million miles, Nefertiti the "Jumping Johnson" spider landed at the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo at the National Museum of Natural History last week. Unfortunately, whether it was her long flight or the short natural life span of a spider, "Neffi" was found lifeless Monday morning, after only four days on public view.

"Yes, it's unfortunate. She seemed well-adjusted to earth and was in good spirits. But 10 months is a good run for a little jumping spider," said museum spokesman Randall Kremer,

The thumbnail-size brown spidernaut was sent to the international space station as a student project in June and later splashed down in the Pacific aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

During her 100-day mission, the spider adapted to weightlessness and learned to snag fruit flies with an unorthodox method. Instead of leaping onto her quarry, as jumping spiders do on Earth, Neffi "sidled up to the fruit flies," said Dan Babbit, manager of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo.

Amr Mohamed, an 18-year-old from Alexandria, Egypt, proposed sending two jumping spiders to space for a YouTube-sponsored contest. His experiment was one of two chosen by a panel of all-star scientists, including astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

In Mohamed's video proposal, he said he thought that jumping spiders would founder in space. "I suggest it will jump toward prey but not get it," he said. On Earth, jumping spiders capture prey with a gravity-limited leap. In the microgravity of orbit, such a trajectory would send the spiders soaring past their dinner.

Once aboard the station in a shoebox-size habitat, Nefertiti awaited a meal. NASA astronaut and station commander Sunita Williams released fruit flies into the spider chamber.

"My gosh, I saw her stalking a fruit fly," Williams said during a September broadcast from 200 miles above the Earth. "She was going real close. All of a sudden, she jumped right on her. It was amazing. I think the spider has absolutely adapted to space."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Online only
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should mushroom hunters be allowed to forage off-trail in Indiana state parks?

Yes
No
Undecided
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.