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'Spidernaut' finds a new home in D.C. after gravity experiment

November 29, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • The International Space Station hosted an experiment with a spider that has since returned to Earth and is drawing much attention at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's Insect Zoo.
The International Space Station hosted an experiment with a spider that… (NASA / European Pressphoto…)

WASHINGTON -- Like some of capital’s other denizens, this town’s newest celebrity may give you the creeps. 

It’s a spider, and it's drawing a lot of attention at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History’s Insect Zoo.

This is no ordinary spider: It recently returned from 100 days in space.

The  “Spidernaut’’ got a ticket to ride the International Space Station via a competition for novel science experiments among students ages 14 to 18. There were 2,000 entries. 

One of the winners, Amr Mohamed, 18, of Alexandria, Egypt, proposed examining how spiders would hunt prey in microgravity. The result: Nefertiti, the name given to the jumping spider, was indeed able to catch her prey – fruit flies.

Nefertiti was put on public display Thursday at the Insect Zoo where she will remain for the rest of her life – estimated to be about six months,  according to the Smithsonian. Another space spider, Cleopatra, died on the way back to Earth.

Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History, went to BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado to retrieve Nefertiti.

How did the spider cope with the plane trip to Washington? 

"Tupperware container nestled in my rolling bag," Johnson said. "There were tasty fruit flies, crickets and water in the container so she could snack along the way."

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