Spider onboard the ISS in 2008. Image credit: NASA

Spider onboard the ISS in 2008. Image credit: NASA

Good morning, Earthlings!

Let’s chat spiders….IN SPACE! Sounds like a science fiction horror movie gone wrong (or right?)

Actually, there has been several missions onboard Skylab and the International Space Station involving spiders!

First, why spiders? We all know spiders spin their webs into beautiful patterns and shapes, but how about in zero gravity? Would spiders be able to maintain their web structures? What about different kinds of spiders, as in, not all spiders spin the same kind of web…

Let’s take a look at some of our spider astronauts- SPIDERNAUTS!

Arabella and Anita (1973): These two cross spiders (common western European garden type spider) were onboard the Skylab, being the first spiders in space and zero gravity! The spiders were able to spin webs, but with varying thicknesses, but eventually died of dehydration.

Spiderman and Elmo (2008): These spiders are similar to Charlotte’s Web species of spider. These little guys were able to build a web, feed off fruit flies, successfully tear down their webs and rebuild!

Gladys and Esmerelda (2011): a pair of golden orb spiders were monitored with live cameras where hundreds of schools can keep watch of the experiments.

Nefertiti and Cleopatra (2012): a pair of jumping spiders build nest-like webs, which had no trouble in zero-gravity conditions! The box where Cleopatra lived (plus Cleopatra’s preserved body) is currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science!

So what happens to these spiders after they’ve done their space duties? They are sent back to Earth in a small capsule for return and further studies. Unfortunately, most spiders do not survive the coming back to Earth, more likely due to extreme pressures through Earth’s atmosphere and re-entry!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at the Apollo seismometers!

Caitlin Ahrens