Butterfliiiies… iiinnnn… SPPPAAAAACCCCEEEEE!

By Phil Plait | November 5, 2009 12:00 pm

bug_girl_by_skepchickjillMy friend Bug Girl (an entomologist and Skepchick) sent me a note about a cool opportunity for U.S. east coast teachers: you can participate in a Shuttle experiment involving Monarch butterflies in space!

When Atlantis launches next week, it will be carrying some Monarch caterpillars to be taken aboard the Space Station, where they will hatch and be observed. Lots of questions will be investigated: What happens when pupae burst open in space? How will the butterflies cope? Will their migrating instinct be satisfied by moving 7 km/sec across the face of the Earth?

OK, I made up that last one, but Monarch Watch is looking to get teachers and students involved in the real science of butterflies in microgravity. But HURRY! They need your email by tomorrow, Friday, November 6! So if you’re an east coast teacher, go to Bug Girl’s blog and see how you can join in on the insecty fun.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (17)


    Lots of questions will be investigated: What happens when pupae burst open in space?

    Answer: Green goo spills all over the place (I cut one open once, when I was a kid, to see what’s inside).

  2. Thanks BA! I thought it was a cool mixture of your world and mine ūüėÄ

  3. Bug Girl on BA !!!! oh, I’m Tanstaafl56 over on skepchick…

  4. It’ll be interesting to see how butterflies fly in microgravity. Oh, and: COOL!

  5. Jim

    x, x in space > x

  6. Ray

    What happens when pupae burst open in space?

    Good God, man! Don’t you watch the documentaries on the SciFi channel?

    There will be carnage! If we’re lucky, the “butterflies” won’t fly the shuttle back to earth after they absorb the crew.

  7. So what does NASA have against people living west of the Rocky Mountains? :-( Sayeth an Alaskan mom who would just LOVE to send this info on to the dotter’s teacher, except we are definitely west of the Rockies.

  8. Old Rockin' Dave

    “There will be carnage! If we‚Äôre lucky, the ‚Äúbutterflies‚ÄĚ won‚Äôt fly the shuttle back to earth after they absorb the crew.”

    I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

  9. Caleb Jones

    Did anyone else read this blog post title and immediately think of Freeman Dyson’s “Infinite in All Directions”?

  10. Dave

    My first thought after reading this post was that based on her logo, Bug Girl must be Andorian :-)

  11. Bug Girl? Does she have six legs?

    Watch out, those butterflies may absorb ‘cosmic radiation’ and turn into Mothra (now, all we need is tiny twins)


  12. Keith (the first one)

    I’d be really interested in how they fly in zero gravity seeing as they wouldn’t need to produce lift. I suppose if they’re ‘born’ like that though they won’t know any different.

  13. JB of Brisbane

    Cute avatar. Is she really Andorian?
    I can remember the spiders that went aboard Skylab in the seventies. It took them a couple of tries to build a web that looked anything like the ones they would build on Earth.

  14. I hope you’re planning to publish the results.

  15. Brian Too


    Nope, I immediately thought of the Muppets:

    “Piiiiggsss‚Ķ iiinnnn‚Ķ SPPPAAAAACCCCEEEEE!”

  16. Chet Twarog

    Monarchs flapping their wings inside the ISS? Explains Dec 2012! :]

  17. Open to all teachers!! Painted lady butterflies also will go to ISS on Atlantis next week. Complete instructions for using this with students can be found on BioEd Online (www.bioedonline.org) and K8 Science (www.k8science.org) free-of-charge. Photos from space will be made available on the site for students to use for their own research questions.

    This is real science for kids!!


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