What did you do over the weekend? Well, Tesla's Elon Musk spent it building a "mini-sub" that he hoped would be able to help the children stuck in Thailand's Tham Luang cave for more than two weeks. The 12 boys and their football coach were rescued safely today but not before authorities stated that Musk's submarine was not suitable for this operation. The boys will be kept in a hospital for around 7 days.
"Some good feedback from cave experts in Thailand. Iterating with them on an escape pod design that might be safe enough to try. Also building an inflatable tube with airlocks. Less likely to work, given tricky contours, but great if it does," Musk tweeted on Saturday, adding that "Primary path is basically a tiny, kid-size submarine using the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull. Light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust".
The following day he posted videos of testing out the mini submarine in a school's swimming pool with a man inside it. According to AFP, Musk significantly pointed out that the person inside the submarine need not swim or know how to use oxygen bottles. This was an important factor because many of the trapped children did not know how to swim.
Once he was sure of its safety, Musk rushed off to Thailand with his creation. He was reportedly accompanied by several officials from his companies, SpaceX and Boring Company.
Thirteen hours ago, Musk posted a couple of pictures of along with the following tweet: "Just returned from Cave 3. Mini-sub is ready if needed. It is made of rocket parts & named Wild Boar after kids' soccer team. Leaving [it] here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful."
He also posted a video of the flooded caves on Instagram.
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Eight of the trapped boys were rescued in batches as of Monday evening. So Musk's help was, unfortunately, a little late in arriving. It also turned out to be impractical for the mission at hand. The report added that Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, who is the head of the rescue mission, said at a press conference today that while he was grateful for "Mr Musk's support", the submarine just was "not practical" for the massive effort, still underway.
Twelve members of a local soccer team, all aged between 11 years and 16 years, and their 25-year-old coach got trapped inside the cave on June 23 when sudden heavy monsoon rains flooded the entrance, forcing them to seek out higher ground deeper inside the network. The team was discovered after nine days of searching by a multinational team of rescuers - gaunt and near starving but alive.
Musk's sub may not have proved a saviour in this case, but it might prove a useful option in future situations. "With some mods, this could also work as an escape pod in space," Musk tweeted.