Space spiders coming home

CARRIED ALOFT BY THE SPACE SHUTTLE Endeavour in May 2011, the Spiders in Space experiment saw two spiders—Gladys and Esmerelda—take up residence aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The two golden orb spiders (Nephila clavipes) were kept in separate habitat chambers. Each chamber had a food supply of fruit flies, and was equipped with cameras and lighting systems. The lights were set to a 24-hour cycle that provided 12 hours of “daylight,” and 12 hours of “nighttime”. Night photographs were captured using infrared light.

One of the Earth-bound spiders

One of the Earth-bound spiders

The video above shows Esmerelda catching a fly.

The educational experiment was designed for school students to get involved in science while having fun. Students were encouraged set up spider habitats in their classrooms, so that they could compare the behaviour of their Earth-based spiders with the spiders living in space.

Hourly images of the spiders have been streaming onto the BioEd Online web site, where they are available as downloadable PowerPoint files or video clips.

After their holiday in weightlessness, Gladys and Esmerelda will be returning to Earth this week aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Adapted from information issued by BioEd Online.

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