A spider spun a web in space but it was different from its web on Earth

Anita Durairaj

Spider webPhoto byChandrasen13; CC-BY-SA-4.0

Arabella the spider is in the Guinness Book of World Records along with a second spider called Anita for being among the first to successfully spin a spider web in space.

Arabella was a female cross spider (Araneus diadematus). Cross spiders are commonly called European garden spiders. They are considered to be orb-weaver spiders.

Orb weavers build spiral wheel-shaped webs that are often found in nature. They are native to Europe but they are also found in North America.

Cross spiders were chosen for the space experiment because they are hardy. They can survive without food for up to 3 weeks as long as there is enough water. They are also orderly and punctual.

Cross spiders spin webs at approximately the same time and the web is constructed in an orderly manner.

Both Arabella and Anita were chosen to go onboard the first United States space station, Skylab. The mission took place in 1973.

A specially constructed cage was made for the two spiders with attachments for utility lights and cameras.

The spiders were each fed a housefly and then placed in a vial with a water-saturated sponge and an additional housefly. After two days, Arabella had spun a small web - the first in space.

Arabella and Anita both spun webs in space. However, astronauts noticed that both spiders first had to adjust to the weightlessness of space.

They both seemed to adapt quite well to the weightless environment but the webs that they spun were much thinner than the webs they spun on Earth. The differences in the webs spun in space versus those created on Earth indicated that the spiders had been affected by weightlessness and the change in gravity.

Unfortunately, after a month, Anita died in space while Arabella died while being transported back to Earth. The cause of their deaths was reported to be possible dehydration.

Arabella and Anita are forever remembered not just in the Guinness Book of World Records but in the history of NASA.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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