The 33 men rescued from a mine in Chile after a record 69 days stuck deep underground have received some cosmic praise from astronauts living on the International Space Station.
"From outer space, we just wanted to let you know how proud we are of you, and how much we admire your courage and your tenacity," space station commander Douglas Wheelock said Oct. 13 as the miners were lifted out of Chile's collapsed San Jose mine.
Wheelock, a NASA astronaut, is one of six astronauts living aboard the International Space Station. The crew includes three Americans and three Russians, all of whom expect to spend around six months living in space.
"We want to congratulate all the miners for their perseverance, and their faith in their friends and their co-workers that were struggling so many days and so many nights to get them back to safety," Wheelock said.
The Chilean miners were trapped 2,200 feet (670 meters) underground during an Aug. 5 collapse. They maintained contact with the surface using a small support tunnel, which allowed rescuers to send down supplies and food. [Graphic: Perils of Underground Mining]
"Godspeed to everyone," Wheelock said. "It's truly an answer to prayer. You've been in our thoughts these last several months and several weeks, and congratulations."
NASA sent two medical doctors, a psychologist and an engineer to aid the rescue effort. The experts drew on NASA's experience with long-duration space station missions such as that of Wheelock and his crew to suggest ways to keep the miners healthy and in good mental health.
NASA engineer Clint Cragg of the agency's Langley Research Center in Virginia offered advice on the design of the one-man rescue capsule used haul the miners out of their subterranean prison.
"When I saw the first miner being extracted I was both happy and very relieved," Cragg said.
There are still medical concerns for the Chilean miners now that they are back on the surface. After months living underground, they may suffer from sunburned eye, fungal infections and post-traumatic stress, medical experts have said.
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