Zoo mourns spidernaut's death
Thursday 6 Dec 2012 8:16 a.m.
The jumping spider survived space, but not retirement (file pic)
A spider that survived a space voyage of almost 68 million kilometres has died - only four days after retiring to a Washington DC insect zoo.
Nefertiti, a Johnson jumping spider, travelled to the International Space Station in June as part of an experiment devised by a teenage Egyptian student.
Amr Mohamed, 18, won a YouTube-sponsored contest judged by a panel of world-famous scientists, including physicist Stephen Hawking.
Mohamed's hypothesis was that jumping spiders would struggle in space, unable to catch prey – but Nefertiti proved him wrong. The spidernaut quickly adapted to microgravity, having no trouble at all catching fruit flies released into her container.
"My gosh, I saw her stalking a fruit fly," said astronaut Sunita Williams. "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."
Nefertiti was brought back to Earth aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule, packed in a plastic box and sent to the Smithsonian's Insect Zoo in Washington DC, where she was put on public display.
Unfortunately she was found dead four days later.
"Yes, it's unfortunate," said museum spokesperson Randall Kremer. "She seemed well-adjusted to earth and was in good spirits. But 10 months is a good run for a little jumping spider."
Kirk Johnson, director at the Smithsonian, called Nefertiti a "special" spider.
"This spider has travelled 41.5 million miles. Splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. Flew to Japan, flew from California."
A second jumping spider on the voyage, Cleopatra, didn't survive the trip to space.