Today we join NASA in mourning the loss of a spider. Not just any spider -- a space-traveling spider.
While most her jumping spider kin were deftly hopping just a few short inches in pursuit of some tasty insect snack or another down here on Earth, one eight-legged astronaut named Nefertiti was reaching for the stars -- bounding 250 miles above our planet, all in the name of science.
And now she's just embarked on her final voyage into the Great Unknown.
Earlier this year, presumably only after acing a battery of adorably insect-sized endurance tests, Nefertiti was selected by NASA scientists to take part in an expedition to the International Space Station. For 100 long days in orbit, researchers observed how the brave spidernaut could hunt in zero-gravity conditions. It turns out, gravity or none, the jumping spider was an expert fly-killer.
According to NASA, "Nefertiti demonstrated that, like humans, her eight-legged species can adapt to the microgravity of space, then transition back to life on Earth."
But Nefertiti's time back on Earth would prove to be all too brief. At the start of this month, the world's first space-traveling jumping spider began her hard earned retirement at what might best be described as a Club Med for arachnids -- the cozy confines of the National Museum of History's Insect Zoo. Just days ago, however, keepers there found her dead of 'natural causes'. She was 10 months old.
"You have been my friend," write those at NASA who knew her best, quoting Charlotte's Web. "That in itself is a tremendous thing."
Godspeed, Nefertiti, wherever you are now.