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Elon Musk’s mini-submarine ‘not practical’ for Thailand cave rescue, say authorities

Elon Musk’s mini-submarine ‘not practical’ for Thailand cave rescue, say authorities


Musk said he would leave the device at the rescue site in case it is ‘useful in the future’

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Thailand Cave Rescue For Trapped Soccer Team
Onlookers watch and cheer as a helicopter flies to the Tham Luang cave to transport the fifth rescued boy.
Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

The rescue of a trapped soccer team in Thailand’s Tham Luang cave is over, after a team of international divers retrieved the remaining boys and their coach this morning. They did so without the assistance of Elon Musk and his 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.”

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 is now over. 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 were trapped for 18 days, and one former Thai SEAL died trying to exit the cave after delivering emergency oxygen. As of 8AM ET this morning, all 12 boys and their coach have been successfully rescued from the cave.

Update July 10th, 08:00: The story has been updated with the news that everyone has been rescued from the cave.