After 18 days of being trapped 2,300ft underground, Nasa is called in to help the brave miners feared to be suffering psychological trauma
It’s a story that can’t fail to evoke shock and sympathy in all who read it: the 33 Chile miners trapped in a 500 sq ft passage deep underground.
The emergency occurred early this month after a rock collapse in the San Jose gold and copper mine. Those trapped were able to make contact with the world by passing a note through a shaft requesting ‘food, toothbrushes, a cold beer, peaches and something for their eyes.’
Now, following rising concerns over the miners’ physical and mental health, Chile has called in Nasa to help keep the men alive during the lengthy rescue operation that could take until Christmas.
According to the South American country’s Health Ministry, the space agency is a great source of advice due to their experience at keeping men safe and alive for long periods of time, despite having limited supplies.
Nasa will be asked to supply technology and rations that will help keep the miners healthy. Although doctors are more concerned with how the men are dealing with the mental trauma of being trapped for so long.
‘It’s a question of sanitation and the longer they are down there, the more likely health problems arise,’ says Homer Hickman, a mining expert and former Nasa engineer.
The rescue will involve drilling a 26 inch wide hole through the ground, down to where the men are trapped. The concern is that the speed and force of the machine may cause further rock collapse.
Officials who were emotional with relief when they discovered the men were alive have warned that this will be a long and technically complex operation.
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