Spiders in Space Weave a Web of Scientific Inspiration (NASA, International Space Station, 04/23/14)
Image by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
(Article excerpt): While spiders were busy spinning webs in space, researchers on Earth weaved their knowledge of this activity into educational materials to inspire and motivate students. Now, this free, Web-based guide is being re-released through Scholastic and Sony Pictures as curriculum for educators to leap on the excitement surrounding the release of the film, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
For those who may have missed it, this guide’s inspiration came from real science using spiders in space. And although the spiders were exposed to microgravity and radiation in space, they did not morph into mutants; rather, they adapted quite well and provided a biology lesson learned around the world.
Using information gleaned from the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus Science Insert-05 (CSI-05) investigation conducted aboard the International Space Station, BioServe Space Technologies, Baylor College of Medicine and NASA developed an educational guide for teachers called “Spiders in Space.” The learning tool was also funded by grants from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Houston Endowment Inc., and previous work supported by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.
Launched with the STS-134 mission aboard space shuttle Endeavour to the space station in 2011, CSI-05 allowed researchers to observe spiders in a microgravity environment. Two golden orb spiders, or Nephila clavipes, were flown aboard the space station in a special habitat. This allowed researchers to study the spiders’ web-spinning practices to see if that behavior or the characteristics of the web they produced would change over time. The habitat’s cameras collected imagery throughout the spiders’ time in microgravity to document any differences between those in space and the same type of spiders on the ground.
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Image credit: Danielle Anthony
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