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Nefertiti Dead: First Spider To Return To Earth From Space Dies

Astronaut Spider

First Posted: 12/03/12 EST Updated: 12/04/12 EST

WASHINGTON -- Nefertiti, the jumping spider who traveled through outer space and returned to Earth to live out her days in the nation's capital, has died.

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  • Astronauts Joe Acaba and Sunita Williams photographing the jumping spider in her space flight habitat on board the International Space Station.

  • Nefertiti, the red-backed jumping spider hunting for flies inside her space flight habitat on board the International Space Station.

  • Nefertiti, the red-backed jumping spider hunting for flies inside her space flight habitat on board the International Space Station

  • Nefertiti feeding in microgravity

The Smithsonian released the unhappy news on Monday:

It is with sadness that the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History announces the death of Nefertiti, the "Spidernaut." "Neffi" was introduced to the public Thursday, Nov. 29, after traveling in space on a 100-day, 42-million-mile expedition en route to and aboard the International Space Station. She was there to take part in a student-initiated experiment on microgravity.

This morning, before museum hours, a member of the Insect Zoo staff discovered Neffi had died of natural causes. Neffi lived for 10 months. The lifespan of the species, Phidippus johnsoni, can typically reach up to 1 year.

The loss of this special animal that inspired so many imaginations will be felt throughout the museum community. The body of Neffi will be added to the museum's collection of specimens where she will continue to contribute to the understanding of spiders.

Nefertiti circled the Earth about 1,584 times and traveled some 41,580,000 miles during her journeys. She was not the first spider to go into space. But she was the first to return home, if briefly.