A spider that survived more than three months aboard the International Space Station has died less than a week into its new life as a celebrity. Nefertiti, a jumping red-backed spider, breathed her last after just four days of living in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. I was going to write that she "spun her last web," but jumping red-backed spiders actually don't make webs. Rather, as NASA explains, jumping spiders "hunt using their excellent vision to track and stalk prey, jumping and striking with a lethal bite -- similar to cats hunting mice." The point of the experiment, conceived by an Egyptian high school student who won a global YouTube Space Lab contest, was to see if jumping spiders could successfully hunt prey in microgravity. Nefertiti, at least, showed she could, managing to kill and devour fruit flies placed in her sealed environment on the space station. Nefertiti was aboard the space station from July to October. Here's the Smithsonian announcement:
It is with sadness that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History announces the death of Nefertiti, the “Spidernaut.” “Neffi” was introduced to the public Thursday, Nov. 29, after traveling in space on a 100-day, 42-million-mile expedition en route to and aboard the International Space Station. She was there to take part in a student-initiated experiment on microgravity.
This morning, before museum hours, a member of the Insect Zoo staff discovered Neffi had died of natural causes. Neffi lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species, Phidippus johnsoni, can typically reach up to 1 year.The loss of this special animal that inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community. The body of Neffi will be added to the museum’s collection of specimens where she will continue to contribute to the understanding of spiders.
Guess that rules out a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Now read this: