During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we threw a whole lot of different technical solutions at the problem hoping to fix it. Chile's in a similar situation now, trying to rescue a group of trapped miners half a mile below the surface. One solution? An escape capsule of sorts.
It's all a bit claustrophobic but here's the plan: a narrow hole that's only wide enough to fit one man — and just barely — will take a rescue worker down in a 13-foot-tall capsule. Once at the bottom, said worker will then start the operation, and the miners will be hauled back to the surface one at a time in the capsule he rode down on. If all goes well, it could take as little as 11 minutes to as long as half an hour or more.
During the possibly long trip back to the surface, the miners will have little more to distract them other than a hands-free phone to communicate with rescue workers. The capsule is also made with sections of mesh so that it can twist and turn a little in case the shaft isn't completely straight. The only thing worse than being trapped half a mile under the surface in a mine would be getting stuck in this tube.
The folks in charge of the operation are currently testing out the system and hope to deploy it soon.