Astronaut reveals irrational fear of spiders persists even in space

Brittany A. Roston - Aug 6, 2021, 3:06pm CDT
Astronaut reveals irrational fear of spiders persists even in space

If you, like many people, have an irrational fear of spiders, you may be disappointed to learn that living in spider-free outer space isn’t enough to alleviate the paranoia. NASA astronaut and, as we’ve now learned, arachnophobe Megan McArthur recently shared a tweet about her innate reactions to floating dust on the ISS.

The International Space Station’s microgravity environment means that small pieces of debris — a puff of dust here, a speck of food there — may gently float around, sometimes passing through your field of vision on its aimless trip around the cramped space quarters.

That was the subject of a recent tweet by NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, who served as a Mission Specialist during the Space Shuttle mission STS-125. McArthur is now serving as a pilot on the joint NASA-SpaceX Crew-2 mission that launched to the ISS in late April.

In her tweet, McArthur revealed that despite having spent 100 days on the (most likely) spider-free International Space Station, she still has an instinctive negative response to floating debris, briefly reacting to the potential of a spider before tamping down the feeling with a reminder that there aren’t any spiders in space.

McArthur’s experience sounds perfectly sensible to anyone who suffers from an irrational fear of spiders, of course. The visceral reaction to these small critters is often immediate and automatic, with the body lurching to remove itself from the situation before the mind to catch up to calm things down. Given the ISS’s unique environment, debris likely floats with the same slow, bouncy movements as a spider on a web, triggering the irrational reaction.


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