Elon Musk announced on Twitter Friday morning that his companies SpaceX and the Boring Company, which specializes in drilling, would join the mission to rescue the 12 boys trapped in a cave in northern Thailand.
The companies’ engineers could contribute with their expertise in energy storage and drilling, he said.
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
Nine days after the young members of a Thai soccer team and their coach were reported missing, they were found Monday by a British diving team inside the flooded Tham Luang Nang Non cave system.
As of Friday, the boys and the coach were still stuck in the cave. Though they are reportedly healthy, oxygen levels in the cave are decreasing, and it remains uncertain when they can be rescued.
The Thai government confirmed Musk’s tweet with a message on its Facebook page.
The biggest issue the rescuers are facing is that there are about 2.5 miles of flooded cave between the boys and the cave’s mouth. While they’re currently on safe ground above the floodwater, more monsoon rains are expected this weekend, and the cave system could be flooded for up to four months.
The Royal Thai Navy is currently weighing out how best to extricate the boys, given that none of the boys know how to swim and it currently takes the experienced divers five hours to make that journey due to high currents and poor visibility. One rescuer died early Friday on an oxygen supply mission along the route to the trapped boys.
Musk — along with the rest of the world — has been following the story over the past few days. Although his team is not yet in Thailand, he already has a suggestion: inserting a nylon tube and inflating it “like a bouncy castle” to “create an air tunnel underwater.”
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
Twitter users had reached out to Musk on June 3, asking if he would send help. He initially responded: “I suspect that the Thai govt has this under control, but I’m happy to help if there is a way to do so.”
I suspect that the Thai govt has this under control, but I’m happy to help if there is a way to do so— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 4, 2018
But he eventually followed up, tweeting that since the Boring Company has “advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes,” it could probably help.
He also added that they could send “fully charged Powerpacks,” referring to the the Tesla utility battery packs that the company also sent to Puerto Rico to combat power outages after Hurricane Maria.
As of a few months ago, the Powerpacks were in 662 locations in Puerto Rico, and Electrek reported that the batteries were powering key facilities, including a hospital, sewage treatment plant, and a water pumping station. On June 3, Musk vaguely tweeted that Tesla has “about 11,000 projects underway in Puerto Rico.” But no other news has emerged since then.
Musk has been criticized for failing to deliver on promises before; for example, Tesla had production issues with its Model 3 car and missed several deadlines, causing its shares to drop by 6 percent.
But as the situation in the caves has gotten more dire, the rescue mission in the caves will likely welcome the assist.