Spiders in space are so unhappy that they can’t even pick up nets

Sending spiders into space may seem like a good idea (because, science), but arachnids seem to have their own ideas about living in space.

NASA researchers first sent spiders into space in the 1970s, so an arachnid-based experiment to raise scientific awareness among high school students in 2008 seemed logical. That was before one spider made its way out of its pen.

However, as is often the case, what could have been written down as a mistake became a series of experiments on spiders in space, leading to unexpected science.

Someone has to tell spiders about the scientific way…

The test seemed simple enough – a pair of spiders would be allowed to stay on board International Space Station, and researchers would look at how they adapted to life in the microgravity environment.

Unlike spiders, mice seem to like a place, once they get used to it. Video credit: Original images from NASA / Editing and formatting by The Cosmic Companion

In a separate experiment, mice launched into the ISS entered a position in space after a few days, and soon even they invented their own game. Spiders are far different from mice, and the reaction of the arachnids was not fun.

Spiders on Earth build asymmetrical nets, with their bases closer to the top edge than the center. The octopus hunters usually live on the top half of their nets, head pointed downwards. In this way, gravity assists the spider as it runs towards its prey, trapping the net.

In space, however, there were spiders leave without gravity to guide them.

Shawshank website

A pair of arachnauts embracing the main subject, a Metepeira labyrinthine, and backup spider, a Larinioides patagiatus, were launched to the International Space Station (ISS).

The backup spider, possibly dissatisfied with co-star status, broke out of restraint, entering the main test chamber. Astronauts could not open the room for safety reasons, they were unable to separate the pair of spiders in space. Before long, nets lifted by the spiders became hard, as the two arachnauts somehow found each other.

Fruit flies grown as food for the spiders in space also responded to their unusual situation, reproducing at an unexpected rate. Eventually, larvae overwinter, and move out of their breeding center, covering the floor of the case. Moving into the test room with the existing pair of spiders, the larvae soon covered the room window, blocking astronauts from seeing their spiders or webs.

Maybe the test just needed more spiders

The second test in 2011, created to follow the 2008 study, was designed to learn from the misfortunes of 2008.

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