Spiders have returned to space! CNN has a video
from NASA TV showing a spider on the International Space Station making its web. The activity of the spider is cool, though the CNN commentary is sort of inane (I recommend hitting 'mute'). Studying the effects of microgravity on how spiders build their webs is valuable for multiple reasons. It raises public interest in the space program and provides biological data, plus the study offers a glimpse into polymerization of a protein when gravity is changed. How does this affect the nature of a spider's web? Are the properties of the silk produced by the spider altered? If so, how is the silk produced in space different from silk the spider would make on Earth?
The spiders are one of two educational experiments designed by The University of Colorado-Boulder's BioServe Space Technologies that flew on Endeavour's mission to the ISS. The purpose of the spider experiment is to compare the web spinning and feeding of spiders in space with that of spiders on the ground. The other experiment is designed to chart the life cycle of butterflies in microgravity and to compare their development with that of their earthbound counterparts. Over a dozen Colorado middle schools will be monitoring the progress of the experiments through the videos, data, and images sent back from the ISS.Spiders on Skylab 3
| Spiders on STS-107