Elon Musk and his Engineers Develop Mini Kid-sized Rescue Sub to Extract Soccer Team Stranded in Thai Cave

As more rain continues to pour in Thailand, a rescue operation to save a young soccer team and their coach turns dire. Elon Musk has offered to help, suggesting building a mini kid-sized submarine out of spare rocket parts to rescue the soccer team.
Maverick Baker
Elon Musk and his engineers are working on a mini-rescue sub built out of spacecraft parts, smaller than the one shown above, to rescue a soccer team stranded in a caveWikimedia/NASA

According to Elon Musk, a team of SpaceX engineers is hours away from completing a mini rescue sub which could hatch a safe escape plan to extract the 12 teenagers and preteens stranded with their coach inside a flooded cave in Thailand.

Last week, Musk sent a team of engineers to help advise and devise an emergency rescue mission to extract a soccer team stranded deep inside a flooded network of caves in Thailand. Since his initial announcement, the team alongside Musk have evaluated many options, including an idea to use an inflatable nylon tube inside the cave’s narrow passageway to open an escape route, while also further investigating another extraction method by means of drilling through the mountain and into the cave.

Each plan is being met by difficult obstacles; the inflatable tube could turn catastrophic if punctured, and any attempt to drill could take months to reach the chasm. The kids cannot swim let alone dive, and the cave may flood or run out of oxygen come September when the rain slows and the floods recede.

It is a time sensitive operation, and at the moment, Musk's Ludacris mini kid-sized sub may offer the greatest chance of success for the survivors still stranded within.

Effectively, the plan is to build a two person mini-sub out of rocket parts from SpaceX. While it will not be motorized, Musk assures it will be light enough to be escorted by divers and small enough to wind through the narrow gaps. Moreover, the design is robust, so any bumps or collisions along the dark narrow water-filled passages will not jeopardize the integrity of the sub.

The plan, however, is far more than a working theory. Yesterday, Musk revealed the mini rescue sub is near complete and will be flown out to Thailand shortly after.

"Construction complete in about 8 hours, then 17-hour flight to Thailand," Musk said on his Twitter account

Thai authorities have yet to respond to the idea, but as water levels continue to rise in the cave, options are running out.

No official design has been revealed, however, Saturday evening Musk described a few of the features of the rescue pod.

Why is it Taking so Long to Rescue the Soccer Team Stranded in a Thia Cave

Rescuing the 12 young boys and their coach has proven to be a notoriously difficult task. Experts suggest the operation could last at best a couple weeks but could drag on for months if the team is to wait it out until the rainy season is over in September.

Experts have strongly advised against teaching the kids to dive, citing the escape is far too dangerous to even professional divers. Many of the kids also cannot swim, further complicating the rescue operation.


Waiting until the monsoon season is over in mid-September would allow the team to walk out through the same path they took to get in. However, maintaining a habitable environment until then is a demanding challenge for rescue workers who are struggling to keep the survivors alive right now.

Oxygen levels have dropped down to 15%, a level experts warn is approaching an alarming amount. According to Thai medic Aphakorn Yoo-kongaew, such low oxygen levels pose a serious risk for hypoxia, a condition that leads to oxygen sickness. If not extracted soon, the team could run out of oxygen.

"We can no longer wait for all conditions (to be ready) because of the oppressive situation," Yoo-kongaew told journalists Friday.

"We originally thought the young boys could stay safe inside the cave for quite a long time but circumstances have changed. We have a limited amount of time." No mention was made of exactly how long the team can survive with current oxygen levels, but the team is actively working on delivering more oxygen through scuba tanks, as well as building a pipe system to carry more are into the cave.

Despite remaining in good hands, rescuers were reminded of the extreme danger within the flooded cave when a rescuer lost his life attempting to deliver air tanks to the stranded victims.

While no one is certain when the team will be rescued, rescue operators assure it is their top priority to ensure their safety - no matter what.