Elon Musk floated a plan to free the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave, and he says SpaceX and Boring Co. engineers are headed to Thailand

Elon Musk.

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Elon Musk.
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Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

  • Elon Musk on Wednesday said he would be “happy to help” the Thai soccer team stuck in a cave since June 23.
  • He has now designed a plan to help save the boys, and he said engineers from his companies would travel to Thailand on Saturday.
  • Rescuers are in a race against time to get the team out of the cave, as oxygen levels are falling and monsoon rains threaten to leave them trapped for months.

Elon Musk has detailed plans meant to free the Thai soccer team stuck inside the Tham Luang cave network in northern Thailand – and he says engineers from two of his companies are traveling to Thailand to offer help.

Musk outlined his proposal on Twitter on Friday. He suggested that a tube or series of tubes be sent through the cave network and inflated, creating a tunnel for the team to travel through without needing to scuba dive.

“Maybe worth trying: insert a 1m diameter nylon tube (or shorter set of tubes for most difficult sections) through cave network & inflate with air like a bouncy castle, ” he wrote. “Should create an air tunnel underwater against cave roof & auto-conform to odd shapes like the 70cm hole.”

He wrote that engineers from two of his companies, the aerospace manufacturer SpaceX and the tunnel-construction company Boring Company, were leaving for Thailand on Saturday to offer assistance to the Thai government.

“There are probably many complexities that are hard to appreciate without being there in person,” Musk wrote.

A Twitter user highlighted the narrowest parts of the cave, where the diameter is just 70 centimeters (28 inches), as well as parts of the route that are flooded.

A map of the cave system showing how some parts are narrow and others are flooded after rains.

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A map of the cave system showing how some parts are narrow and others are flooded after rains.
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Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Musk wrote in response that the water near the entrance looked as if it could be pumped out. The deeper stretches would need battery packs, air pumps, and tubes, he said.

“If depth of 2nd is accurate, would need ~0.5 bar tube pressure,” he wrote. “Prob need to enter tube, zip up & then transit.”

The 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach have been trapped inside the cave since June 23. Rescuers have been working on a variety of plans, including teaching the boys to scuba dive. But the mission has been turned into a race against time as oxygen levels fall and heavy rain is due this weekend.

The dive is also dark and dangerous – it has taken rescuers six hours to reach the team and another five hours to return to the entrance. A former Thai navy SEAL died early Friday while delivering oxygen tanks to the cave.

It is not clear whether Musk’s solution will be seriously considered or whether it would work better than the methods already being explored by rescuers.

Musk first offered to help with the rescue mission on Wednesday. He replied to a Twitter user who solicited his help, saying he was “happy to help if there is a way to do so.”

Rescuers have been pumping water out of the cave with the goal of letting the boys walk out, rather than having to scuba dive. Musk indicated on Wednesday that he might be able to help with this effort. “Don’t know if pump rate is limited by electric power or pumps are too small,” he said. “If so, could dropship fully charged Powerpacks and pumps.”

Rescuers have also explored digging a hole into the cave system to reach the boys. Musk wrote on Wednesday that his Boring Company had “advanced ground penetrating radar & is pretty good at digging holes.”