Proving yet again that all rich people aren’t a-holes, Elon Musk retrofitted part of a Space X Falcon rocket, turned it into a high-tech mini sub, and flew to Thailand’s Tham Luang cave over the weekend hoping to help rescue the boys' soccer team trapped within.
Sure, the successful rescue operation didn’t end up using the tech – which, according to one of Musk’s many tweets on the operation, utilized “the liquid oxygen transfer tube of Falcon rocket as hull” – but how many of you folks sat around brainstorming ways you could help? And then actually did something about it?
Well, Musk built a submarine out of a rocket. Which turned out to be the best idea put forth, after “iterating” with some “cave experts.” The idea seemingly won out over “building an inflatable tube with airlocks,” due to the caves “tricky contours.”
As you can see in the test footage below, the “kid-sized” rocket-ship sub – which Musk named Wild Boar (Moo Pa) after the kids’ soccer team – is highly maneuverable.
Alas, though divers on the scene reportedly assured Musk the device would fit, Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osatanakorn, the head of the joint command center coordinating the rescue operation, politely noted (via The Guardian) that while the “technology is good and sophisticated,” it just wasn’t “practical for this mission.”
In the end, it proved to be more practical to train the 12 boys and their coach to scuba dive through the three kilometer, mostly submerged cave-route, with plenty of guidance, expertise, and rigging from teams of navy divers. And since heavy rains are predicted, time was of the essence.
Though the rescuers didn't end up using the mini-sub, Musk left it at the site in case it should come in handy in the future. Apparently he's got more liquid oxygen transfer tubes lying around the parts shop at Space X. Interestingly, Musk also noted that "with some mods," the device could also be used as an escape pod in space.
Musk’s Tesla car company hasn’t had the best publicity lately, so perhaps the tech tycoon could be posturing just a bit. But if you’re going to at least try and help people while you’re at it, then by all means, get some good PR in the process. Right?