Trapped Miners In Chile to Get NASA Advice

With33 miners trapped deep underground, Chile is seeking advice from NASA on how tokeep them mentally and physically fit for the months it may take to rescue them.

"Wereceived a request from the Chilean government about advice related to our lifescience research," John Yembrick, a NASA spokesman, told SPACE.comWednesday.

TheU.S. space agency, which routinely trains astronauts to cope with the isolationof months-long InternationalSpace Station missions, is providing survival tips to Chilean officials,who are able to communicate with the miners trapped 2,300 feet (700 meters) belowthe Earth's surface. The rescue mission could take up to four months, accordingto press reports.

NASAofficials are currently in a meeting to discuss further details.

"Rightnow, we're still waiting to find out what specific questions they have for us,and how best we can assist," Yembrick said.

Thesmall gold and copper mine in the northern Chile collapsed Aug. 5. On Sunday rescuerswere able to dig a 6-inch-wide tunnel to reach the miners, the HoustonChronicle reported. But it could take four months to complete the rescue, whichinvolves drilling a 2-foot-wide (0.6- meter) tunnel through 2,200 feet (670meters) of solid rock.

Thetrapped minershave been able to live so far off of limited food and water supplies in an areathe size of a large living room. A physician on the rescue team said that theminers started out eating two spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk and a biscuitevery 48 hours, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"Psychologicallyspeaking, we have to try to keep them on the right track and not give themfalse hope that it will be a short rescue," the Reuters news agency quotedChile's Mining Minister Laurence Golborne as saying.

Astime passes, NASA may be able to suggest ways for the miners to cope with thetough physical and psychological conditions.

Physicianshave recommended that the miners do regular exercises to ?prevent muscleatrophy as they await extraction, Reuters reported.

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Denise Chow
NBC News science writer

Denise Chow is a former staff writer who then worked as assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. She spent two years with, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions, before joining the Live Science team in 2013. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University. At NBC News, Denise covers general science and climate change.