Dec 27, 2020

Arachnauts: NASA Sends Spiders to Space for Experimentation – Here’s What They Found

Posted by in categories: education, space

Humans have taken spiders into space more than once to study the importance of gravity to their web-building. What originally began as a somewhat unsuccessful PR experiment for high school students has yielded the surprising insight that light plays a larger role in arachnid orientation than previously thought.

The spider experiment by the US space agency NASA is a lesson in the frustrating failures and happy accidents that sometimes lead to unexpected research findings. The question was relatively simple: on Earth, spiders build asymmetrical webs with the center displaced towards the upper edge. When resting, spiders sit with their head downwards because they can move towards freshly caught prey faster in the direction of gravity.

But what do arachnids do in zero gravity? In 2008, NASA wanted to inspire middle schools in the US with this experiment. But even though the question was simple, the planning and execution of the experiment in space was extremely challenging. This led to a number of mishaps.

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