Thu. Jun 1st, 2023
Elon Musk in Adelaide, Australia in 2017.
enlarge / Elon Musk in Adelaide, Australia in 2017.

Elon Musk tweeted on saturday that a team of SpaceX engineers is hours away from completing work on a “small submarine the size of a child” that could be used to extract 12 teens and preteens stranded with their soccer coach in a flooded cave in Thailand . Musk has been getting a team of engineers working on the problem in recent days and has kept the world updated on the work via Twitter.

On Thursday night, Musk tweeted about an idea to use an inflatable nylon tube to help the kids escape. By Friday afternoon, Musk’s thinking had evolved. He tweeted that his team was working on building “teflon-coated double-layer Kevlar pressure capsules to slide through rocks.” An afternoon tweet on Saturday yielded another update:

And this isn’t just a theory: Musk says his team is building the device right now. “Construction completed in about 8 hours, then 17 hours flying to Thailand,” Musk tweeted just before noon, California time.

We have not yet seen a response from Thai authorities to this idea, but it could provide a solution to the deadly dilemma facing Thai rescuers. Much of the path out of the cave is under water and in places the cave becomes as narrow as 70 cm. A route this narrow is a major challenge for even the most experienced cave divers – indeed, a diver died earlier this week carrying oxygen tanks to the boys. Some guys can’t even swim, which is why it may not be possible to give them the training needed to swim out even with professional help.

But waiting may not be an option either. The oxygen level in the boys location has dropped. Moreover, Thailand is just entering the rainy season. With heavy rainfall for the next few days, there is a danger that the water level will rise and the group will drown.

The kind of small submarine Musk describes could allow professional divers to get the boys out without the boys having to do more than lie still. It would still be a harrowing and claustrophobic experience, but — if everything works as Musk describes — it could be far less dangerous than conventional diving, where a panicked teen could lead to the death of the teen himself and his professional dive guides. .

At the same time, Musk says he’s continuing to work on his earlier idea: an “inflatable tube with airlocks” that can be inflated in the submerged parts of the tube, creating a tunnel for the kids to crawl through. In a Friday night tweet he described this option as “less likely to work given tricky contours, but great when it works.”

Update: In a follow-up tweet, Musk describes some of the features of the rescue pod.

And when someone early if it was “confirmed to maneuver through even the narrowest of passages”, he answered “Yes.”

By akfire1

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