Late last night billionaire magnate Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he had just dispatched an engineering team to Thailand (set to arrive on Saturday) to aid in the rescue efforts of the 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach trapped in the six mile long Tham Luang Nang cave system in Chang Rai, northern Thailand.
This comes on the heels of the death of highly-trained ex-Navy Diver, Petty Officer Saman Gunan, who had volunteered to help with rescue efforts and died after losing consciousness in one of the cave’s passageways Thursday night. As well as news that oxygen levels in the cave have dropped to 15%, a level that Thai officials say is dangerous and could pose a serious risk of hypoxia.
Musk, who is the co-founder and CEO of Tesla, as well as the founder, CEO, and lead designer of SpaceX, has, according to Bloomberg pledged to:
…assist by trying to pinpoint the boys’ precise location using Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or Boring Co. technology, pumping water or providing heavy-duty battery packs known as Tesla Inc. Powerwalls.
SpaceX & Boring Co engineers headed to Thailand tomorrow to see if we can be helpful to govt. There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2018
Over the past few days, Musk has been positing possible ways in which his companies could aid in the rescue via Twitter, even engaging Thai satellite entrepreneur James Yenbamroong founder of mu Space Tech (who is also assisting the Thai government in rescue efforts) on the platform, in trying to help find a solution.
In recent hours, Musk has suggested the possibility rescue by inserting tubes inflated with air (kind of like a “bouncy castle”).
With Musk noting in a tweet that the mechanism “should create an air tunnel underwater” that “auto-conforms” to any “odd shapes” of the cave.
SpaceX team reached out to us today to help connect to Thai govt. Our team connected and provided some prep feedback to your team. For pumps, cave has narrowest 70cm cross section and about 5km to 13 guys. For vertical drill, it’s about 1/2 mile down and tricky
— James Yenbamroong (@JamesWorldSpace) July 5, 2018
Good idea. Looking into cross sections and lengths of each section. The critical 70cm cross section area has 15m in length. And we believe 2km away from entrance where pumps should be. pic.twitter.com/RxmrBfpFgG
— James Yenbamroong (@JamesWorldSpace) July 6, 2018
Looks like 1st bit of water is close enough to entrance to be pumped out. 2nd & 3rd would need battery packs, air pumps & tubes. If depth of 2nd is accurate, would need ~0.5 bar tube pressure. Prob need to enter tube, zip up & then transit.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 6, 2018
As CNN, reported Thai Navy SEAL chief Rear Adm. Aphakorn Yoo-kongkaew told journalists today that the need to get the boys out now is urgent:
We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because of the oppressive situation..We originally thought the young boys could stay safe inside the cave for quite a long time but circumstances have changed. We have limited amount of time.
No word on how long the team (ages 11-16) and their 25-year-old coach could survive at current oxygen levels, but Yoo-kongkaew said getting more oxygen piped into them was top priority.
Last year, Musk responded to request for help from the Puerto Rican government, after a devastating hurricane hit there, by sending Tesla Powerwalls and providing advice on rebuilding the island’s infrastructure.
According to Bloomberg Musk could help the Thai rescue efforts in another possible way as well:
Musk’s tunneling startup Boring Co. could potentially make available its massive drills or excavation expertise, but such an approach could be too dangerous for this mission.