SAN JOSE MINE, Chile — The government has consulted NASA about the extreme isolation of space. Chilean Navy officers have come to discuss the emotional stress of living in a submarine. Doctors stand at the ready with antidepressants. Even a tiny home theater is being funneled down in plastic tubes to occupy the 33 miners stuck in their subterranean home.
Chile is sparing no expense or attempted innovation in trying to rescue the miners trapped by a cave-in on Aug. 5, fully aware that the country — and the world — is closely watching the ordeal.
But like everything else being done to maintain the psychological health of the miners over the weeks or months they may remain nearly half a mile underground, officials will carefully control what they are exposed to, down to the messages they receive from their families or the kind of movies that might be projected on the wall of the mine.
No fewer than seven government ministers roam the makeshift camp outside the mine here in Chile’s Atacama Desert, not to mention the countless politicians, millionaire donors and observers who almost outnumber the family members camping in tents.
With his popularity already slipping, President Sebastian Pinera has staked his nascent presidency on rescuing the miners, analysts said.
Government officials said they held a teleconference on Wednesday afternoon with five NASA specialists, among them doctors who put astronauts through tests that simulate the grueling isolation of a voyage to Mars.
Dr. Jaime Manalich, the health minister, said he had urged NASA to send a team to “monitor what we are doing here” and announced Thursday that three or four NASA specialists would arrive in Chile next week to assist medical officials with the miners.
Before being discovered, the miners survived on tiny bites of emergency rations and have lost an average of about 20 pounds each.