NASA experts arrive in Chile to help in miners’ rescue

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SANTIAGO - Experts of the US space agency NASA arrived in Chile Tuesday to contribute to the rescue of 33 miners trapped 700 metres under the Atacama desert in northern Chile.

The experts were met at the airport by Chilean Health Minister Jaime Manalich. They are set to help rescue efforts in psychological, operational and health-related aspects, among others.

NASA’s deputy chief medical officer James Duncan, its space health specialist Albert Willard Holland, flight surgeon James D. Polk, and principal engineer Clint Cragg, all of them from the Johnson Space Centre in Texas, are among the experts who arrived in Chile.

Cragg will also be active in waste management, a key issue for the survival of the miners, who have been trapped since Aug 5, since infections are one of the main risks they face underground.

Chile asked NASA for help since the gold and copper miners stand before the challenge of surviving in a small space just like astronauts, for a period which could be three to four months. The space agency agreed to help with food delivery and technical support.

The miners, who have kept strict living and working rhythms despite being trapped, have to deal with scarce oxygen, in almost constant darkness, with temperatures above 35 degrees and high humidity.

Chilean authorities, who only made contact with the miners 10 days ago through holes that have a diameter of only 10 centimetres, have developed a special plan to keep the workers fit both physically and psychologically. The initiative includes distance tests, vaccines, a balanced diet and an exercise routine.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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