Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s attempt to assist in the rescue of 12 soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave just wasn’t practical, according to Thai officials.
The SpaceX and Tesla CEO proposed — and built — a “kid-sized submarine” which would be used as an escape vessel for the children. Musk posted a video of the submarine being tested on his Twitter feed this week.
However, despite receiving a thank you from the prime minister of Thailand himself, officials “politely” informed Musk that they wouldn’t be making use of the contraption.
Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command centre co-ordinating the rescue operation, told reporters that while he appreciated Musk’s offer, the submarine wasn’t practical for the cave rescue.
“Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn’t fit with our mission to go in the cave,” Osatanakorn told reporters.
Musk responded to the snub by questioning the expertise of the rescue team, and went on to say Osatanakorn was “not the subject matter expert.”
Musk posted a photo of his email conversation with Dick Stanton, the British driver who first made contact with the soccer team and their coach. Stanton asked Musk to continue working on the project.
“Moreover, based on extensive cave video review and discussion with several divers who know journey, SpaceX engineering is absolutely certain that mini-sub can do entire journey & demonstrate at any time,” Musk added.
Despite his criticisms, Musk congratulated the team who completed the mission, which successfully rescued all 12 boys and their coach from the cave over several attempts which took place between last Sunday morning and Tuesday afternoon.
“Great news that they made it out safely. Congratulations to an outstanding rescue team,” said Musk.
He added, however, that he would be leaving the submarine in Thailand “in case it may be useful in the future.”
There was some concern that the device would be too large to navigate the crevices of the cave. Musk then posted that the divers who had travelled through the cave had vouched that the submarine would be small enough to make the journey, but that his team had designed an exact, inflatable replica that could test the passage without any fear of blockage.
The rescue mission to extract the boys and their coach from the cave began early Sunday morning and concluded on Tuesday afternoon, after several voyages into the flooded passage. While each member of the team and their coach survived the traumatic rescue after over two weeks submerged underground, one rescuer was killed last week due to a lack of oxygen.
The rescue captured a global audience and even earned the boys an invite to the World Cup final, though they regrettably had to decline to undergo medical treatment.