Spider Learns to Weave Web in Zero Gravity

NASA scientists find lost other spider lurking in its box.

ByABC News
November 20, 2008, 5:47 PM

Nov. 20, 2008— -- Spider No. 2 has finally been found on the International Space Station, apparently lurking somewhere in its box before finally resurfacing today. Perhaps it overcame space adaptation sickness.

The second of two spiders accompanying the crew on the space station disappeared earlier this week, and the flight team had been hoping for it to return.

In the meantime, spider No. 1 has apparently gotten the hang of weightless weaving. Video of the spider's web shows a dramatic improvement in recent days. Earlier this week the web was very tangled, with no symmetry at all. Now it looks more like a spider's web should look.

Spiders in space aren't new. Two arachnids named Arabella and Anita flew to Skylab in 1973. Scientists were curious to see how the spiders would react in weightlessness, whether their webs be different and how would they eat and sleep.

While spiders in your house may send you scurrying for a shoe, in space they're almost hypnotic as they struggle to weave a symmetric web in zero gravity.

Experiments with insects are an easy way for teachers across the country to get students involved in hands-on science, which is the goal of sending these two spiders, and some butterflies, into orbit on the latest shuttle mission to the space station.

Astronaut Sandy Magnus, the newest member of the space station crew, was asked how the visible spider was doing.

Mission Control: "Is it weaving an organized looking web or is it something neat to see?"

Magnus: "The web is more or less 3-dimensional and it looks like it is all over the inside of the box, more of a tangled disorganized-looking web than a 'Charlotte's Web' kind of web."

The spiders will return to Earth when the Space Shuttle Endeavour lands at the end of its 15-day mission later this month.