A deep gut-wrenching rumble means collapse somewhere in the tunnel of the mine. It is a sound everyone fears. You are alive, but trapped, with no means of escape. You are one of 33 miners sealed 700 meters (2,300 ft) underground.
After 69 days, the 33 miners were all rescued. Large numbers of people watched daily as the rescue efforts unfolded in eventual success. Their story is told in the November 2015 release of a new movie titled The 33.
You might be wondering how outer space is connected to this story of being trapped in a deep hole of inner space. Many countries offered various forms of assistance. The United States gave valuable help through NASA. The highlights are described below.
Inner Space Location
This schematic diagram shows where the miners were in shelter, well below the collapses. The link below the diagram is to the online multimedia source in Spanish if you want to see more details. Several drill shafts were made. The first were 6 inch diameter bore holes. After 17 days, one of those cut into the area near the miners. It was used to lower foods, communication lines, messages, etc. The miners heard the drilling and prepared a note which they attached to the drill. The message was found when the drill was raised. It said all 33 were alive and waiting for help.
The long process of rescue gained renewed vigor. A larger tube was needed, large enough to pass a rescue cage with a person fitted tightly inside. Drilling efforts were slow. On the eighth attempt, a tube reached their shelter area from one of the blue rigs in the diagram above.
Outer Space Connection
NASA has great experience in survival under harsh and life threatening conditions. They know the challenges of maintaining mental and physical health in long term isolated environments. The 33 were certainly facing threatening conditions. NASA fielded a team of doctors, nutritionists, and engineers to meet with the Chilean and mining officials. The team made suggestions to optimize the chances that every miner would survive the long wait whenever that might occur.
- Replace Vitamin D due to lack of direct sunlight.
- Exercise to prepare for the stress of the rescue mission.
- Include proper caloric intake, proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
- Keep sleep schedules to help mood and social interactions.
- Wear eye protection for their return to the surface.
- Wear sweaters and jackets during ascent to the cold surface.
- Stay hydrated with salts and electrolytes especially during rescue.
- Limit media access during and after this difficult time.
- Help the miners cope with isolation from the outside world.
- Counsel the families before and after the rescue.
- Communicate with friends and family regularly.
- Manage tensions of the group confined to their small space.
NASA engineers worked with the Chilean navy and made 75 suggestions for the rescue capsule. Most of them were used. The capsule held a single miner. It was 13 feet long (4 m) and weighed 926 pounds (420 kg). A single miner could get in and secured himself without assistance.
The capsule had exterior rollers and a bottom trap door to allow emergency escape if it got stuck half way. The miner could then rappel back down. A second capsule was made so teams could study problems that might occur during the rescue.
Engineers advised an oxygen tank, an audio/video feed, and medical probes for vital signs during the rescue. The system worked flawlessly as it made multiple trips to the surface. Here is a picture of a test run.
This is just one of many ways in which NASA works toward the benefit of humanity. It is a valuable organization.