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NASA Spidernaut, Nefertiti Died at Smithsonian

NASA Spidernaut

Nefertiti, the space-spider died over the weekend due to natural causes. She was 10 months old and jumping spiders normally live for about one year.

The jumping ‘spidernaut’ had recently returned from a 100 day space journey where she circled the Earth about 1,584 times and traveled some 41,580,000 miles. While Nefertiti was not the first spider to go into space, she was the first to return home.

The Space-spider was given a home at the “Insect Zoo” at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where she was to live out the rest of her life. The body of the spider will now be kept in the museum’s collections.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History released a statement about the death of the ‘spidernaut’:

It is with sadness that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History announces the death of Nefertiti, the “Spidernaut.” “Neffi” was introduced to the public Thursday, Nov. 29, after traveling in space on a 100-day, 42-million-mile expedition en route to and aboard the International Space Station. She was there to take part in a student-initiated experiment on microgravity.

This morning, before museum hours, a member of the Insect Zoo staff discovered Neffi had died of natural causes. Neffi lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species, Phidippus johnsoni, can typically reach up to 1 year.

The loss of this special animal that inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community. The body of Neffi will be added to the museum’s collection of specimens where she will continue to contribute to the understanding of spiders.

“Spidernaut” was part of a YouTube Space Lab experiment proposed by Amr Mohamed, an 18-year-old student from Egypt. He wanted to see if jumping spiders could adjust hunting techniques to the weightlessness of space. Nefertiti did adjust to microgravity and continued catch her prey in space. She was able to catch fruit flies with an unorthodox method. Instead of leaping for the prey, as jumping spiders do on Earth, Neffi “sidled up to the fruit flies,” said Dan Babbit, manager of the O. Orkin Insect Zoo.

Spidernaut

Zebra spiders jump on their prey instead of catching them in a web. But what would happen in microgravity? Amr doesn’t think the spider will catch its prey, but could it adapt its behaviour and hunt in a different way? Only space will tell.

YouTube Space Lab

Watch the show that streamed live from the International Space Station and join our host, Bill Nye the Science Guy, as he chats to NASA astronaut, Sunita Williams, to find out the results of the winning Space Lab experiments.

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