Spiderwebs in Spaaaace!

by Nancy Atkinson on June 22, 2011

Most houses have at least a few cobwebs in corners or down in the basement, and now the decade-old International Space Station has some spiderwebs, too. But it’s not because the astronauts have neglected cleaning — it’s all in the name of science. Two golden orb spiders named Gladys and Esmerelda are living on the International Space Station in separate habitat chambers, and scientists are watching the behavioral and physical changes of the spiders and how they spin their webs in space. The experiment was launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in May of this year and transferred to the ISS. Students from all over the US are conducting analog experiments in their classrooms to determine how the spiders are adapting to their microgravity environment.

The video above is a 26 day timelapse of spiders in space.

Each chamber contains a food supply of fruit flies, and is equipped with cameras and lighting systems. The lights are set to a 24-hour cycle that provides 12 hours of “daylight,” and 12 hours of “nighttime.” Night photographs are captured using infrared light.

Hourly images of the spiders are available on BioEd Online. At the same link, there’s also a free Spiders in Space guide which contains instructions for setting up ground-based spider habitats and helping students to design their own spider investigations. Students are encouraged to compare their Earth-based spiders to photos of spiders living in space.

The project is being overseen by the Baylor College of Medicine Center for Educational Outreach in conjunction with BioServe Space Technologies.

Via Wired Science

You can follow Universe Today senior editor Nancy Atkinson on Twitter: @Nancy_A. Follow Universe Today for the latest space and astronomy news on Twitter @universetoday and on Facebook.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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