Side Note
A group of rescuers from the Thailand government gathers near the entrance of the Tham Luang cave.

A group of rescuers from the Thailand government gathers near the entrance of the Tham Luang cave.

Elon Musk wants to rescue the soccer team trapped in a cave

On Thursday night, Elon Musk announced plans to send a group of SpaceX and Boring Company engineers on July 7 to help rescue a group of people trapped in a flooded cave. Twelve 11 to 16-year-old boys and their 25-year-old soccer coach have been stuck in Thailand’s Tham Luang cave complex since June 23 after a rainstorm closed off the entrances. A monsoon is expected to strike the area in just three days, making a rescue astronomically more difficult, if not impossible. SpaceX, Boring Company, and Thailand-based satellite start-up company muSpaceTech are among the first private organizations to offer help in the rescue effort.

In an exchange of tweets between Musk and James Yenbamroong, founder of muSpaceTech, Musk outlined a few possibilities for a collaborative rescue. He may offer the use of the Boring Company's ground-penetrating radar and Tesla's electric-powered Powerpacks to charge the water pumps. He also suggested installing an inflatable, oxygen-flooded tube that would run under the water flooding the entrance to the cave. Yenbamroong, perhaps in an attempt to justify that Musk's assets are up to the task, spoke with Musk publicly about the proper dimensions of that would have to be used to accomplish this.

The announcement comes after a series of unsuccessful attempts by the Thai government to rescue the boys over the past several days. The Thai government is unable to pump out water from the cave faster than a centimeter an hour—a measly number, considering that the boys can’t swim, and the deepest point of water depth is about 30 meters. Yesterday, a former Thai Navy SEAL died from asphyxiation during a difficult dive through the waters that flood the cave’s entrance, trying to deliver oxygen to the team.

All the while, the team remains at high risk. The oxygen levels in the cave are estimated to be at around 15 percent—which raises your heart rate, even while resting. Andrea Danese, Head of the Stress & Development Lab at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, told The Guardian that the boys are at risk of acute psychological symptoms, like anxiety, jumpiness, moodiness, and agitation. In three days, the region is expected to receive monsoon-level rains, which could bring inches of rain into the entrance. The boys also cannot swim, meaning that a successful scuba-rescue is a long shot.

Thailand is expected to provide a press conference regarding the status of the rescue later today.