Engineers from SpaceX and the Boring Company are heading to the Chiang Rai province of Thailand to join the growing effort to rescue a soccer team trapped in a cave, according to Elon Musk. It’s unclear what the engineers will do once they arrive. The effort, led by the Thai navy, has already claimed the life of a navy SEAL.
“We are speaking with the Thai government to see how we can help, and we are sending SpaceX/Boring Company people from the US to Thailand today to offer support on the ground,” a spokesperson for The Boring Company tells The Verge. “Once we confirm what exactly will be helpful to send or do, we will. We are getting feedback and guidance from the people on the ground in Chiang Rai to determine the best way for us to assist their efforts.”
The 12 boys and their coach went missing in late June while exploring the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand. They were discovered Tuesday by rescuers, and the group is considered to be in good condition, with the local provincial governor reporting only “light injuries.”
The team received food and medicine, and it was thought that they could survive for weeks with steady supplies as rescuers found the best way to get them out of the cave. But the cave system is already partially flooded, and heavy rainstorms are approaching, which has ratcheted up the pressure to perform a rescue.
In response to a tweet about the rescue operation, Musk wrote Wednesday that he “suspect[s] that the Thai govt has this under control,” but said that he was “happy to help if there is a way to do so.”
“Boring Co has advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes,” he added. Musk also sent Tesla’s energy generation and storage teams to Puerto Rico last fall after Hurricane Maria to help restore power to hospitals and small towns.
Beyond the rain and flooding, one of the problems with the rescue effort in Thailand is the tight quarters of the lengthy cave complex. Musk traded potential solutions to this on Twitter with James Yenbamroong, the CEO of Thai space startup mu Space, like an air-filled escape tube, or providing the Thai navy with pumps to help with the flooding that would be powered by Tesla battery packs.
Ultimately, Musk said “[t]here are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person.” So, according to Yenbamroong, SpaceX reached out to mu Space for help connecting to the Thai government, and now an unknown number of engineers from the two Musk companies are on their way to help. SpaceX and the Thai navy did not respond to requests for comment.
“ASAP assessment of the cave and environment, once they arrive here in Thailand, needs to be done before the actual plan can be drawn and before proceeding with the rescue,” a spokesperson for mu Space tells The Verge. “We really need to ensure the safety of those people trapped inside the cave.”