Chile Starts Digging Miner Rescue Shaft

NASA pitching in to help trapped miners
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2010 6:00 AM CDT
Chile Starts Digging Miner Rescue Shaft
A worker gives a thumbs up next to an oxygen plant used to send breathable air to the 33 miners trapped alive in the collapsed San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile.   (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

Three months and 29 days to go: Engineers have begun drilling the shaft through which they hope to rescue the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed gold mine deep below Chile's Atacama Desert. The rescue shaft, begun late yesterday, must reach down 2,300 feet to the emergency shelter where the men are waiting. Completing the shaft and lifting the miners out is expected to take up to four months of work.

The miners will have to pitch in, clearing away tons of falling debris in round-the-clock shifts as the shaft is dug. A NASA team—including a doctor, a nutritionist, an engineer, and a psychologist—is due to arrive at the collapsed mine this week to advise rescuers. The miners' environment deep underground is similar to that of astronauts in space in terms of "physiology, behavior, responses to emergencies," a NASA medical officer tells the BBC.
(More Chile stories.)

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