December 6, 2012

Spidernaut Makes Final Resting Spot Washington D.C.

The Smithsonian’s Insect Zoo had a new visitor, one from out of this world, but its visit was short lived after dying just a few short days after its trip.

The National Museum of Natural History’s new guest was Nefertiti the “Jumping Johnson” astronaut spider.

Neffi was found lifeless on Monday morning, just four days after her public debut at the national zoo.

“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,” museum spokesman Randall Kremer told the Washington Post.

The spidernaut spent some time at the International Space Station (ISS), and was also part of the historic Dragon capsule’s descent back towards Earth.

During Neffi’s 100-day mission, she adapted to weightlessness, and learned to catch her prey through unorthodox methods. Instead of leaping onto fruit flies, she crept up next to them.

The spidernaut’s trip to space was due in part by Amr Mohamed’s proposed experiment. The 18-year-old proposed sending two jumping spiders to space as part of a YouTube contest that included an all-star scientists panel featuring Stephen Hawking.

Mohamed thought with microgravity, the spiders would fly past their prey once they leapt towards dinner. However, Nefertiti showed her space resilience when push came to shove.

NASA astronauts released fruit flies into the spider’s chamber for mealtime, and instead of succumbing to microgravity’s physics, the spider adapted.

During a broadcast on the ISS, astronaut and commander Sunita Williams watched as the spider crept closer towards her meal, and suddenly jumped right on it.

“It was amazing. I think the spider has absolutely adapted to space,” Williams said during the broadcast.

After coming from space, to a laboratory in Colorado, then to her final resting place in Washington D.C., Neffi completed her full life

Kirk Johnson, the museum’s director, said the spider has traveled 41.5 million miles, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, flew to Japan, and flew from California. In all, Nefertiti the spidernaut lived a full life.

Image Credit: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

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