Chile has appealed to the US space agency NASA for help in keeping 33 trapped miners alive during a rescue attempt which could take four months. Health officials compared the cramped conditions the men are in to those astronauts experience during long stints on the International Space Station.
Chile health ministry said it would ask NASA for technology and rations to keep the miners healthy in a confined space with limited supplies.
“Conditions inside the mine are not dissimilar to those faced by submarine crews and by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS)”, said Chilean officials, adding that the priority is to get state-of-the-art foodstuffs developed for such conditions.
The miners were located alive on Sunday after 17 days trapped 700 metres below the surface in an emergency refuge the size of a one-bedroom flat in the copper and gold mine in San Jose, Atacama.
“We are all healthy and hungry” the workers said in their first telephone contact on Monday.
Minister for mining Laurence Golborne said they had requested food, toothbrushes and eye ointment. Some of the men were suffering from stomach cramps, he said. They revealed they have been surviving on two mouthfuls of tuna and half a cup of milk every 24 hours.
Rescue workers are planning to drill a 66 centimetres wide hole to reach them. In the meantime, food, drink and oxygen is being sent down a 15cm hole.