The rescue of the soccer team in Thailand’s Tham Luang cave is nearly over, with a team of international divers entering today for what is hoped to be the final time. The divers will be making an 11-hour round trip through flooded passages to free the remaining trapped boys and their coach. They will do so, however, without Elon Musk’s purpose-built “kid-sized submarine.”
The SpaceX and Tesla CEO announced he would try to help with the rescue operation last week, and refashioned part of a Falcon 9 rocket into an underwater escape capsule for the children. Musk apparently flew out to Thailand with the device over the weekend, sharing photos and videos of the rescue site on social media.
But according to reports from The Guardian and ABC, Musk was “politely” told that the mini-submarine would not be of use. “Although his technology is good and sophisticated it’s not practical for this mission,” Narongsak Osatanakorn, head of the command centre overseeing the rescue, told reporters. Musk tweeted that the mini-sub was “ready if needed” and would be left at the cave system as it “may be useful in the future.”
A spokesperson for Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, said that he was “highly appreciative” of Musk’s initiative, and “personally touched” that the tech businessman had travelled to Thailand with his “ingenious solutions.”
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 here in case it may be useful in the future. Thailand is so beautiful. pic.twitter.com/EHNh8ydaTT
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 9, 2018
Musk’s would-be involvement in the rescue operation has received a mix response on social media. Some have praised the businessman for his altruism, while others have suggested that his actions seem short-sighted and even opportunistic. Some were also skeptical of Musk’s choice of rescue vehicle, suggesting that the rigid mini-submarine would not be able to navigate the narrow twists and turns of the Tham Luang cave. Musk said divers who had traversed the passage had vouched that the device would be small enough.
Either way, the rescue operation continues. The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, were stranded in the cave on June 23rd before heavy rainfall created floods that blocked their exit. They’ve now been stranded for 18 days, and one former Thai SEAL has died trying to exit the cave after delivering oxygen. The latest reports this morning said a tenth boy had been rescued — meaning just two boys and their coach remain.