The vacuum of space was a minor inconvenience, but the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, D.C., proved too much for the world's first "spidernaut."
After just four days at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, "Nefertiti," a Johnson jumping spider, was found dead in its enclosure. But as the Daily Camera notes, the spider's passing came after it managed to survive a 42-million-mile journey that included 100 days aboard the International Space Station and a landing in the Pacific Ocean.
"That's how it is with living organisms. You just never know," said Stefanie Countryman, manager of K-12 educational projects at the University of Colorado's BioServe Space Technologies. "Someone didn't squish her. It wasn't something someone did. She had been eating well at the Smithsonian and active. There is no other explanation other than that she was reaching the end of her lifespan."
Neffi was 10 months old; the Johnson jumping spider typically lives about a year. While the Smithsonian said the spider of died of natural causes, it also confirmed that no postmortem tests were performed on Neffi.
"We want to add her to our collection so that we can continue to learn about spiders," said Smithsonian press officer Kelly Carnes. "And she is much more useful as a research specimen if we keep her intact."
The spider's journey was part of a NASA-sponsored YouTube contest, which selected two student-proposed studies from thousands of entries. Neffi was selected for a mission based on a proposal from 18-year-old Amr Mohamed of Egypt to study whether a spider could adapt to a low-gravity environment.
The University of Colorado designed a series of tests that were carried out aboard the space station. Apparently, the spider was able to hunt down its supply of fruit flies that were brought along on the mission.
"The loss of this special animal that inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community," read a Smithsonian announcement on Neffi.