Spidernauts make a home in space!

A PAIR OF SPIDERNAUTS are settling in to their new home aboard the International Space Station.

Carried into orbit during the current space shuttle Endeavour mission, the spiders are housed in separate enclosures, with a supply of fruit flies to keep them from getting hungry.

The video above shows a series of single exposures of one of the spider enclosures. The camera got bumped during launch; hopefully the astronauts will be able to refocus it.

The spiders are part of an educational experiment. School kids around the globe are taking part, comparing the antics of the spidernauts with spiders back on Earth.

Here’s a video that shows the spiders’ enclosures:

And let’s just hope they don’t receive a high dose of radiation and mutate into gigantic, horrible Earth-destroying monsters … like this one back in 2007!

Story by Jonathan Nally, SpaceInfo.com.au. Images and videos courtesy NASA / BioServe.

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  1. PCPete says:

    Aaaah. I knew it was on the lens or the window of the camera, but it looked much bigger to me. Must have been closer than I thought!

    I did find it interesting that you could tell immediately it wasn’t a “giant spider” because of the lack of inertia that would have been present in such a “beast”! I think that’s where horror movies go wrong all the time – just slowing down the framerate of the superimposed or chromakeyed “monster” doesn’t cut it – it would be like watching an elephant tap-dance in real time. It ain’t gonna happen, and there’s some subroutine in most people’s brains that says “this isn’t real, it’s speeded up/slowed down”.

    Interesting, too, that very early audiences (who probably had never seen speeded up or slowed down film sequences before then) had so much belief in those B-grade movies! I guess we laugh at ’em just because of our exposure to so many similar effects these days. I think the early King Kong movie (the one with the plastic T-Rex) was a good example of that… Not much astronomy-related, I know…

    I *thought* I’d heard of a spider experiment on the ISS or Skylab or something before this. My brain’s not as fried as I thought.

    Thanks Jonathan!

  2. Jonathan Nally says:

    Hi Pete,
    Spiders have been taken into orbit before. IIRC, at least for some of them, there is temporary disorientation with their webs but they get the hang of it fairly quickly.
    The monster spider attacking the shuttle was actually a tiny jumping spider crawling across the lens of the camera!
    Cheers mate,

  3. PCPete says:

    As an arachnophobe (who used to collect spiders until some “got out” on me!!), I can definitely understand the engineering required to keep the spiders and humans in separate boxes! But as someone fascinated by the sciences, I also want to see exactly what happens with ’em too!

    My bet is that the webs will be the same size and shape as on Earth, but more (too?) fragile. Any takers?

    And despite my shuddering, I really enjoyed the “giant spider” on the launchpad. That was obviously put together by someone with a great sense of humour! It even looked like a funnel-web to me (obviously not, they don’t have funnel-webs in Florida), but with the body shape and size, and leg disposition and movement, it would be interesting to know…