Chile Mine Disaster: NASA Helps Out

NASA may be out of the moon business and seen a lot of other space-related dreams curtailed, but now it looks like they can direct their energies underground.

The government of Chile has asked for NASA's help in dealing with the 33 miners trapped in a tight space a half-mile underground.

What can NASA do? A lot, surprisingly.

It won't involve drilling a rescue shaft so much as it will assist the miners in how best to live for months in cramped quarters, both in terms of physical and mental health.

"We have a great deal of experience regarding medical, nutritional, and behavioral issues related to the space travel that we have done for decades," a State Department spokesman said in a briefing to reporters yesterday. "[We] are providing that perspective to Chile so it can develop a program for helping to sustain these miners in the coming weeks and months before they can be rescued."

Leading the Chile team, the agency announced, is Michael Duncan, deputy chief medical officer in the Space Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Center.

The Christian Science Monitor notes some of the things NASA can impart:

Among the advice space and other experts are already providing the Chilean government: Have the miners develop a routine, including work, exercise, recreation, and rest; take steps to help the men maintain some sense of time and the passing of night and day; and foster their sense of connection to the world they've left behind by encouraging written, verbal, and video contact with families and by communicating the triumphs and defeats of favorite sports teams.

One thing that space station astronauts have that these miners don't, though: A hell of a view.

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