Tech titan Elon Musk is sending engineers from two of his companies to help the Thai government rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach who’ve been trapped in a cave for nearly two weeks.
“SpaceX & Boring Co engineers headed to Thailand tomorrow to see if we can be helpful to govt,” Musk, CEO of both companies, tweeted Thursday. “There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person.”
Musk said that Boring Company radar technology and Tesla “Powerpacks” could help in the rescue operation.
Boring Co has advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes. Don’t know if pump rate is limited by electric power or pumps are too smal. If so, could dropship fully charged Powerpacks and pumps.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 5, 2018
He also suggested running a nylon tube through the cave system to inflate it “like a bouncy castle.”
Maybe worth trying: insert a 1m diameter nylon tube (or shorter set of tubes for most difficult sections) through cave network & inflate with air like a bouncy castle. Should create an air tunnel underwater against cave roof & auto-conform to odd shapes like the 70cm hole.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2018
The boys were reported missing on June 23 after they didn’t return from an outing to the Tham Luang cave at the Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai. It was soon determined that a flash flood had surged into the cave system after the group had entered, making it impossible to exit. The Royal Thai Navy, joined by a team of international experts, began a rescue operation.
On July 2, rescue divers located the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their coach, 25, on a piece of land surrounded by water deep within the cave, and gave them food, water and medical supplies.
But continued rain could put the boys in danger. It’s unclear how rescuers can continue to supply them with food and water, especially after news broke on Friday that an ex-Thai navy diver had died after losing consciousness in one of the cave’s passageways.
Rescue workers have so far drained the cave of more than 30 million gallons of water. Draining it completely would enable the boys to safely exit on foot, but it’s unclear whether that’s possible with the technology on the ground and with rain in the forecast.
Other options include drilling a hole from the ground down to the cave, waiting until the cave drains naturally, and having the boys use scuba gear to escape the labyrinthine system. The last is arguably the most dangerous option, considering the boys don’t know how to swim and aren’t trained divers.
Musk tweeted back and forth with James Yenbamroong, CEO of Thai space startup mu Space, about possible solutions in the rescue effort.
This image makes it simple. Critical 70cm area is at the center. Several dives and two rest areas in between before getting to strong 13 Thais. You probably need several inserts if going with air funnel solution pic.twitter.com/1Pz6vd7U4N— James Yenbamroong (@JamesWorldSpace) July 6, 2018
Still, it’s too early to say how the joint rescue team will decide to move forward.
“ASAP assessment of the cave and environment, once they arrive here in Thailand, needs to be done before the actual plan can be drawn and before proceeding with the rescue,” a spokesperson for mu Space told The Verge. “We really need to ensure the safety of those people trapped inside the cave.”
According to Thailand’s meteorological department, heavy rain is expected to hit 60 percent of the country’s north, including Chiang Rai, from tomorrow until July 12.