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Spiders in space

UIC biologists help young scientists' project

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UIC mentors helped eighth graders from a Cicero high school send the Diplostyla concolor spider into space earlier this month.

Thanks to some local eighth graders and their UIC mentors, Diplostyla concolor is the latest spider to be sent to space.

Earlier this month, the SpaceX Dragon rocket became the first commercial flight to the International Space Station.

Inside the Dragon capsule during the historic trip was a microgravity experiment designed by local participants in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, sponsored by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.

Cristian Martinez, a doctoral student in biological sciences, and the Wise Lab team, headed by biology professor David Wise, were science mentors to a team of four students from Unity Junior High School in Cicero.

Martinez helped them raise Diplostyla concolor, (small spiders of the Linyphiidae family) in terrariums at UIC and their school.

"The 8th graders used Diplostyla to design an experiment in which they will study the survivability of spider egg sacs in launch, their development in space and ecology after hatching," Martinez says.

The students presented their work to their school board, the Cicero board of trustees and the town president.

"These young scientists have acquired an enthusiasm for science,” Martinez says.

The unmanned Dragon spacecraft launched Oct. 7 and was attached to the station's docking module three days later.

After about six weeks in orbit, the spiders are scheduled to return to earth aboard the Soyuz 31S spacecraft.


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