Update: The 11th boy has now been removed from the cave as of Tuesday morning, as rescuers strategize on the final rescues; two of the boys previously rescued are said to be battling pneumonia.
Elon Musk, the multi-billionaire founder of the private space flight company SpaceX, believes that a “kid-sized submarine” could be used to rescue the last of the boys and their soccer coach who remain trapped as of now in a flooded cave in Thailand.
Rescuers pulled a total of four boys from the cave on Monday. That follows the extraction of the first four on Sunday.
Still, another four boys and their 25-year-old coach remain in the cave. They’ve now been trapped there for over two weeks and a sense of urgency about their safety appears to be rising.
The dangerous rescue mission watched by people all over the world has already claimed the life of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who ran out of oxygen while placing air tanks along the escape route.
Musk sent some of his top SpaceX engineers to Thailand to help with the rescue, tweeting. “There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person.”
The entrepreneur then suggested sending an inflatable tube through the cave system that could be filled with air “like a bouncy castle,” allowing the boys to climb through it and out of the cave.
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
And now he has shared, on Twitter, another idea. He’s suggesting a metal pod — normally attached to one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets — could act as a mini submarine, propelled by expert divers who could carry out one boy at a time.
Testing underwater in LA pool pic.twitter.com/CDO2mtjP2D
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 8, 2018
“Got more great feedback from Thailand,” he tweeted. “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 two divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps. Extremely robust.”
Musk also posted photos and videos of a team of divers testing the pod in Palisades Charter High School’s swimming pool in Los Angeles, including one simulating the pod’s path through a narrow passage, and another showing a man coming out of it safely. (See the video, above, of submarine trial runs.)
Musk added, “This could also work as an escape pod in space.”
The rescue team is facing falling oxygen levels in the cave and even more rain during the monsoon season, which lasts until October.
Continue to be amazed by the bravery, resilience & tenacity of kids & diving team in Thailand. Human character at its best.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 7, 2018
This article has been updated.