Elon Musk's submarine 'not practical' for Thai cave mission, rescue head says

The entire soccer team has thankfully been rescued.

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Daniel Van Boom
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Musk's "escape pod."

Elon Musk/Twitter

Elon Musk hoped to save the young soccer team trapped in a northern Thailand cave, over the weekend building a rescue submarine that he thought could act as an escape pod for the children and their coach.

On Tuesday, when four children and their 25-year-old soccer coach were still in the cave, rescue mission head Narongsak Osotthanakorn told reporters Musk's submarine was appreciated but not practical.

"Even though their equipment is technologically sophisticated, it doesn't fit with our mission to go in the cave," he said, according to BBC. "The equipment they brought to help us is not practical with our mission," the publication also quoted him as saying. 

Musk would hours later reply to BBC, tweeting that a man named Richard Stanton, and not Osotthanakorn, was the true "subject matter expert." He added an email of their correspondence, in which Stanton encouraged the development of Musk's escape pod. Stanton was one of the two divers who first found the soccer team in the cave

The team of 12 boys and their coach entered the cave system on June 23, when torrential rain caused the water level within the cave to rise rapidly, forcing them to venture deeper. They eventually found a dry landing spot, where they waited for nine days before being found by two British divers. 

The rescue operation began in earnest on Sunday, with an experienced team of divers rescuing four of the 13 people trapped. On Monday, rescuers retrieved four more boys, bringing the total freed so far to eight. The final four children and the coach were rescued on Tuesday

The total operation had one casualty, former Thai navy seal Saman Gunan. Th 38-year-old died Thursday night delivering oxygen tanks through the cave passages.

Before the rescue mission began, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk tweeted that he was designing an "escape pod" built from "the liquid oxygen transfer tube" of a SpaceX Falcon rocket that could be used as a submarine. Musk, head of Tesla and the Boring Company, tweeted that the tube would be "light enough to be carried by 2 divers, small enough to get through narrow gaps" and "extremely robust."

On Sunday, Musk tweeted a series of videos showing a team of divers testing the pod in the swimming pool at Palisades Charter High School. The tweets show the submarine being slowly ferried underwater by a team of divers.

Watch this: Thai cave rescue: Elon Musk sends tiny submarine

Musk said in a tweet that he expected the mini sub would arrive in Thailand by sometime Monday evening, local time. "Hopefully useful," he wrote. "If not, perhaps it will be in a future situation." The sub, dubbed Wild Boar after the soccer team's name, is ready for use when and if necessary, Musk said in another tweet, adding that the vessel will remain in Thailand in case it's needed in the future.

First published: July 10, 9:55 p.m.
Updated, July 11 at 5:14 p.m. PT:
Adds Musk tweeted reply to BBC.

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