News about workers trapped in a gold and copper mine in northern Chile is still being broadcast around the world, but now, the news is encouraging. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists, who have been advising the medical team that monitors the status of the 33 workers, were impressed by the high level of professionalism among the Chilean rescue team.
NASA specialists traveled to Chile to share their experiences with rescue workers near the city of Copiapó, located 700 kilometers north of Santiago, in the Atacama Desert. Since they work with astronauts, they are specialists in the management of people exposed to prolonged confinement. The impressions of American experts were written about in the foreign media. The BBC and the Spanish newspaper El País wrote especially on the subject.
“We were very impressed, not only with how the Chilean government has handled this incident, but specifically with the medical care. They have dedicated a lot of time to their care, to the complications of feeding people who are hungry, and to rescuing those people” said the head of NASA’s medical division, John D. Polk, once back at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
The team of NASA doctors, psychologists and engineers spent three days in the area of San José mine assessing the relief and rescue operation, speaking with family members and even with the trapped miners. In this regard, Francisco Peregil, special correspondent of El País reported the following:
One of the main recommendations is to create three different environmental spaces so they recuperate the biological rhythms of day and night. “This requires working with a routine of lights, physical exercise and food” said NASA’s psychologist of special operations Albert W. Holland. “The ideal would be to have three well-identified places: one with permanent light where the miners can relax and play games, one dark place for sleeping and a third, for working. Three groups of 11 people will then be created. This will require more energy and it will be necessary to work with the engineers to implement it.”
Holland remains convinced that the miners will make it through this experience. The resilience that they have shown so far is remarkable. They made great efforts to survive and were able to organise themselves before they were found. Discussing the work that the miners developed without anyone’s advice, the NASA psychologist emphasized that their Chilean colleagues continue to work on very specific assignments and in strengthening the position of the leaders of the group.