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Space-faring spiders from Australia

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by Kluge, Jan 13, 2003.

  1. Kluge

    Kluge Observing your world for over 50 years

    This came from Pest Control Technology:

    Golden Orb Spiders To Be Sent Into Space
    Thirty golden orb spiders are set to become the first Australian animals in space.
    READ THE FULL STORY
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/01/09/1041990050271.html


    Brief excerpts from the link:

    A common garden spider is set to become the first Australian animal in space. Eight golden orb spiders will blast off from Cape Canaveral next week to test the effects of zero gravity on webs. The tiny spiders have been bred at Melbourne Zoo as part of a project by students.

    But the spiders will not be the first in space. Anita and Arabella, two American common cross spiders, were sent into orbit in 1973.
     
  2. wapu

    wapu Veteran Member

    I have always wanted to see spider webs made in space! This is awesome!! Thanks for the link! I am wagering on symmetrical 3D webs. Can't wait for pics.

    wapu
     
  3. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    I'm afraid I don't get it.

    Ok. But why do spiders need to go into space to study spider silk? How will the "possibility of being able to mimic the structure of spider silk" be explored any differently on earth or in orbit?

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for novel science projects... but this one just eludes me.
     
  4. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    I suspect there's an issue of zero gravity and the effect it has on the spider's ability to produce the same quality of silk.
     
  5. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Part of the interest so I've read, is to see the effect of zero gravity on the spiders ability to weave. More than this I do not know. Unfortunatley the story in the link doesn't tell all.
     
  6. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    I can see perhaps that spiders might produce silk differently in zero gravity, but my questions is, so what? As the article states: "Mr Kos, 24, will assess the possibility of being able to <b>mimic the structure</b> of spider silk for use in aerospace structures and space stations".

    Unless NASA is planning to have spiders in space to weave great quantities of silk to make things (which obviates the need to mimic silk in the first place), why wouldn't they just mimic the silk produced on earth?

    This is one of the problems I have with these media blurbs on scientific research. They often present these cool sounding projects but never tell us the "so what?". Drives me nuts! :nut:
     
  7. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Thats frustrating I agree. The newpapers assume sometimes that the average reader is incapable of understanding or not intertested in the detail. They leave that up to the scientific journals. Which is where one will have to head in this case to find out the "why". If I find more I'll post it Coriolis.
     
  8. Advocat

    Advocat Viral Memes a Speciality Staff Member

    A reason given in this short article

    "Invertebrates keeper Patrick Honan at Melbourne Zoo, which has bred the two-month old Golden Orb spiders, said they were ideal candidates for the experiment because they created perfectly symmetrical webs, enabling any changes to be easily identified."

    Apparently, they want to see if zero-g affects the way spiders spin their silk, or if if changes the structure of the silk itself.
     
  9. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    That's pretty much what the other article said. Still, I don't get it. Who cares if a spider spins a different shaped web in space? Both articles make no connection between analysis of web shape, and mimicing spider silk for aerospace and surgical appications. Lol, sorry to go on about this... ;)
    That would be cool. Thanks Ditch. :)
     
  10. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    This article sheds some light on why spiders are being put into space.

    There is also some interesting stuff in January's National Geographic in an article on textiles.Goats bred by Nexia Biotechnologies in Montreal contain a spider gene that causes a spider-silk protein to be expressed in their milk. This protein is being used in a new fiber that's five times as strong as steel, with potential application in bullet proof vests.

    Spider silk, the article says, is not only strong but also stretches. "The spider has taken the 20 amino acids that are in your hair, skin, body and has put them together to make a beautiful continuous filament with perfect crystallinity. And it's truly biological; no high temperatures or noxious chemicals needed for manufacturing"
    As spiders cannot be farmed due to their cannabilistic nature, reseachers have taken the spider-silk-protein gene, which only affects the mammary gland, into the genetic makeup of a goat. After the protein is processed and spun the result is spider silk via goats milk.
    Production of the material, appropriately called Biosteel, is about 18 months away.

    Now you know why those spider webs you unwittingly walk into occassionally are so hard to get off.
     
  11. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    I seem to recall from the first study back in 1973, that the webs were not symetrical in zero gravity. Almost looked like a drunk spider had woven the web.
     
  12. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    Yes I recall reading of that. The use of the word "drunken" caught my attention. Something we can all relate to easily. ;)
     
  13. Coriolis

    Coriolis Bob's your uncle

    Now that's a helpful article! Mystery solved. Thanks Ditch. :)
     
  14. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    I think they take off this evening.
     
  15. wapu

    wapu Veteran Member

    Yup, thanks ditch for the article! I wonder what would happen if a baby were raised on the spider web goat milk? Is the stuff safe to drink?

    on an aside, I hope you do not mind if I repost your link in the SETI forum I frequent? They like this stuff too.;)


    wapu
     
  16. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    No of course not. I'm a member of SETI at BBR myself if thats the one you mean.
     
  17. ditch

    ditch Downunder Member

    I don't know the answer to whether the milk is safe to drink Wapu. What the article goes on to say though is that there is no adverse effect on the goat as it has 70,000 genes of its own and only a single spider-silk gene. But you saw what happened to Spider Man ;)
     

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