NASA lost one of its most special and memorable astronauts this week: Nefertiti the space spider. Nefertiti, a jumping spider, became the first spider to survive a journey into space after spending 100 days in the International Space Station.
“It is with sadness that we announce the death of Nefertiti, the ‘Spidernaut,’” the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History wrote on its Facebook page. “‘Neffi’ was introduced to visitors 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.”
Nefertiti, a Johnson Jumper spider (Phidippus johnsoni), took off for the International Space Station in July as a part of the Youtube Space Lab project in which viewers suggested scientific projects for astronauts. The “space spider” experiment was the brainchild of 18-year-old Amr Mohamed of Alexandria, Egypt.
While in space, Nefertiti was observed as she adapted her feeding habits and daily routines to the effects of zero gravity, according to CollectSpace. Missions relating to Nefertiti the space spider were overseen by NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who would occasionally post updates on the spider via a NASA blog.
After landing back on Earth in October, Nefertiti found a new home in the Natural History Museum, where it became a member of the “Insect Zoo” attraction on Nov. 29. Inside the Insect Zoo, patrons of the museum could observe Nerfertiti alongside many other arachnids and insects. Unfortunately, visitors will no longer be able to observe her while alive.
"This morning, before museum hours, a member of the Insect Zoo staff discovered Neffi had died of natural causes," the museum wrote on Monday. "Neffi lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species ... can typically reach up to one year."
While Nefertiti was not the first spider to explore the final frontier of space, it was the first to survive the ordeal. In 1973, two spiders, Arabella and Anita, were launched up to join the first United States space station, Skylab. But both spiders died while in orbit, though they were later preserved in the National Air and Space Museum, according to Yahoo.
Though Nefertiti is now dead, the space spider will continue to contribute to scientific knowledge on zero gravity.
“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,” the museum wrote.
God speed, space spider.
Eric Brown is an IBTimes reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.