Elon Musk Sends an Escape Pod to Help Thailand Cave Rescue
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has arrived in Thailand and brought along a prototype mini-submarine to help with the rescue of the remaining five members of the youth football team. The four boys and their soccer coach have been trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system for more than two weeks.
Musk tweeted on July 9 that he had just returned from cave 3, which is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) from the entrance of the cave network and a point past which access is difficult.
— Steve (@SteveInCM) July 8, 2018
“Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future,” he wrote in his tweet.
Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids’ soccer team. Leaving here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/EHNh8ydaTT
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
On Instagram, Musk posted a video of the flooded caves, which shows the dark and dangerous conditions the rescuers are working under.
The SpaceX founder previously tweeted on July 7 that he and his team of engineers from his space exploration company were testing a kid-size “escape pod” in order to help with the rescue operations.
Testing underwater in LA pool pic.twitter.com/CDO2mtjP2D
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
The mini-sub Wild Boar was made from a liquid oxygen transfer tube taken from the SpaceX Falcon rocket. The pod is light enough to be carried by 2 divers and small enough to navigate through narrow passageways. Musk added that it was designed using feedback from the cave experts who were in Thailand.
Got more great feedback from Thailand. Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull. Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
Musk chronicled the development of his custom-built prototype sub in a series of posts on social media. Videos posted by the businessman show divers navigating a simulated narrow passageway created in a swimming pool while hauling the mini-sub.
Simulating maneuvering through a narrow passage pic.twitter.com/2z01Ut3vxJ
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
As of July 10, eight of the 13 members of the football team have been rescued from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system by a team of elite divers hailing from all around the world. Emergency personnel are now racing against the treacherous weather to rescue the remain four boys and their 25-year-old coach.
Thai authorities said earlier that the rescuers were taking time to recover and plan for the next phase of the rescue.
“As all of us said, the main thing is we still need more than 20 hours to get ready,” said Narongsak Osottanakorn, head of the rescue mission.
“And it is up to the environment. If the rain god helps us, then we may be able to work fast. But if the rain god doesn’t help, then it could be challenging.”
The next rescue mission expected to come sometime on Tuesday afternoon.
It is unclear whether the mini-sub prototype would be used in the next phase of the rescue. However, Musk said he has left the prototype at the cave in case it becomes useful in the future.
The efforts to rescue the boys—aged between 11 and 16—has proven a monumental challenge. Some of the boys are not even strong swimmers and have had to learn to dive in conditions that claimed the life of a former Thai Navy SEAL on July 6.
Thirteen foreign divers and five members of Thailand’s elite Navy SEAL unit make up the main team guiding the boys to safety.
Authorities have said the boys are being held close to divers and wear oxygen masks to enable normal breathing.
Authorities have not confirmed the identity of the rescued boys. Some of the parents told Reuters they had not been told who had been rescued and that they have not been able to see the rescued boys in hospital.
Narongsak said the rescued boys had not been identified out of respect for the families whose sons were still trapped, adding that the boys were being kept away from their parents due to fear of infection.
Medical teams previously said health concerns included hypothermia and an airborne lung infection known as “cave disease,” which is caused by bat and bird droppings.
The youth football team became trapped in the cave on June 23 when they ventured inside after practice and rain flooded the tunnels, trapping them inside.
Reuters contributed to this report.