Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The world's first arachnid astronaut has a new home in Washington, D.C.

Nefertiti, a jumping spider that recently returned from a 100-day stay en route to and aboard the International Space Station as part of a student-initiated experiment, is now a resident of the Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

Dubbed "Spidernaut," Nefertiti is part of the Phidippus johnsoni species, native to western North America.

The spider was chosen to trek to the ISS through a worldwide competition for science experiments among students ages 14 to 18. There were more than 2,000 entries submitted. One of the selected winners, 18-year-old Amr Mohamed, from Alexandria, Egypt, proposed they examine how a jumping spider, which normally leaps to catch its prey, would adjust in microgravity.

In total, Nefertiti traveled around 42 million miles and circumnavigated the Earth 1,584 times.
Nefertiti is the first spider to travel to space and successfully readjust to life back on Earth. She's expected to live another six months. Another spider that traveled to the ISS, Cleopatra, died on the descent back home.