July 31, 2012
Conversation overheard this morning between astronaut Suni Williams, onboard the International Space Station, and NASA’s payload science center in Huntsville, Alabama:
Huntsville: We did see [on video] Nefertiti eating a fly.
Williams: Did she jump to get it? How did she get it?
Huntsville: She did jump, she’s adapting well.
Williams: Pretty awesome!
This is exciting news, presumably, to 19-year-old Amr Mohamad of Alexandria, Egypt, whose investigation of the weightless eating habits of two jumping spiders* named Nefertiti and Cleopatra was one of three winners of the global YouTube Space Lab competition for high-school students. Mohamed’s experiment arrived on the station just a few days ago on a Japanese cargo ship, and here the spiders are already munching away on fruitflies.
Mohamed thought Nefertiti and Cleopatra, who jump on their prey rather than trap them, would find zero-g hunting to be more of a challenge. Here’s his experiment proposal:
*Note: An earlier version of this post misidentified both spiders as zebra spiders. Nefertiti is a redback jumping spider.