Space Spider Dies in D.C. After 100 Days On International Space Station [VIDEO]

By Mo Mozuch on December 6, 2012 11:22 AM EST

Nefertiti the Space Spider
This space spider died in D.C. just weeks after returning from a 100-day trip aboard the international Space Station. (Photo: NASA)

Arachnophobes rejoice! One less spider in the world ...

Nefertiti the space spider died in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The space spider, or 'spidernaut,' was sent to the International Space Station as part of a student-submitted science project to test whether or not jumping spiders could hunt and catch flies in microgravity.

Bad news arachnophobes. Jumping spiders do just fine in space. NASA astronaut Sunita Williams observed the space spider during it's 41 million mile journey around the Earth and said Nefertiti had no problems catching fruit flies.

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"She is sort of scary; in fact I am so glad I am not a fruit fly," Williams told collectspace.com. "I opened up the habitat and actually saw her running around at full speed looking for something to eat. It was difficult to even get a steady picture. Then a fruit fly came out, Nefertiti stopped, she stalked and then she pounced. It was amazing to see this with my own two eyes."

The space spider died in D.C. after less than two weeks in the Smithsonian's 'Insect Zoo.' Officials said the space spider's death was from natural causes, Nefertiti was 10 months old and her species, Jumping Johnson spiders, typically live for about one year. (Although it could have been boredom that killed her because catching flies in zero Gs is probably the greatest thing ever if you're a jumping spider.)

Nefertiti the space spider was the first hunting spider to go to space. NASA has taken spiders into space before but they were web-building spiders. Most recently, two golden orb spiders were taken aboard the ISS to observe web building behavior in space.

Since the space spider died in D.C., officials are expected to put her body on display at the museum. She will be the third spidernaut to be displayed for the public. Anita and Arabella, two female cross spiders, were taken aboard Skylab in 1973 and were the first spiders taken into space. Both space spiders died in orbit. Anita is now on display at the Air and Space Museum's northern Virginia annex, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in its McDonnell Space Hangar. Meanwhile, Arabella was loaned and exhibited at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Nefertiti was named after the great Egyptian queen in honor of Amr Mohamed, the student who submitted the project through the YouTube Space Lab and is a native of Alexandria, Egypt.

The Smithsonian said on its Facebook page that the loss of Nefertiti, "a special animal that inspired so many imaginations," would be felt throughout the museum community.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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