What kinds of challenges do astronauts face? Cold. Darkness. Isolation. One of the biggest challenges is the effects of weightlessness in space caused by a lack of gravity. Astronauts must learn to move differently.
Their bodies must adapt to this new environment. Once they return to earth, they go through another adjustment. But what if the astronaut was a spider – a jumping spider? Meet Nefertiti, the spidernaut.
- Nefertiti was sent to the International Space Station in 2012.
- She was a Phiddipus johnsonii, a Johnson jumping spider, native to the western United States. She was teal blue, red, and black.
- Like all jumping spiders, Nefertiti jumped to catch her prey. Scientists wondered how she would catch prey in space. Here, when she jumped, the lack of gravity meant that she would simply float.
- Scientists were surprised by how quickly she adapted. Within a few days aboard the space station, Nefertiti began sidling up to fruit flies to catch them, rather than jumping. Scientists were inspired by her quick learning.
- During her adventure, Nefertiti traveled more than 41 million miles and circled the Earth 1584 times. She spent 100 days in space – breaking the previous record.
- When she returned to earth, it took her a few days to adjust to being back on the ground. Sadly, she died soon after at the Smithsonian Museum. Johnson jumping spiders live a year or less; she was 10 months old.
Questions and Answers
Question: How was Nefertiti chosen to go to space?
Answer: The idea of putting a jumping spider in space came from Amr Mohammed of Alexandria, Egypt. He entered his idea in the 2011 You Tube Space Lab challenge. His idea was chosen and Nefertiti was launched into space.
Curious about Nefertiti’s adventure? Darcy Pattison wrote a book about her.