2040 feet. 69 days.
For 69 days, 33 men have been trapped 2040 feet beneath the surface of the earth in Copiapo, Chile. They survived for 17 days in the dark, rationing their food, before rescuers learned they were still alive and began the effort to save them.
This evening I just watched the video of the rescue capsule taking the first man to be rescued, Florencio Avalos, slip up into the shaft in the rock, and rise up to the surface.
I can't even imagine what it must feel like to be them. I can't imagine what it must feel like to be their families.
I've just started reading a book by Mary Roach called "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" that tells of how human beings must be trained, evaluated, and adapted to live in space. She writes of how even our best and brightest astronauts cope with sensory deprivation, boredom, and the challenges of living without gravity - a condition that our bodily functions evolved to accommodate.
Isn't living in a dark, confined cache 2040 feet below the surface something like living in space? Oxygen, food, light - all must be delivered so that the miners survive. Just like astronauts, they must be kept alive in an uninhabitable space - until they can be brought back to where human beings can live.
We watch the video footage of the wheel turning, pulling the cable up.
Florencio is in his capsule, rising to the surface.
The capsule appears, and his wife and little boy embrace him, crying.
Let's bring all of them out safely, rising in the capsule like so many astronauts, coming back to the earth.
Brazilian musician Caetano Veloso wrote a song called "Terra" or Earth. He sings of his thoughts when, confined as a political prisoner, he saw a newspaper photo of the first sight of Earth seen from space, brought back by the Apollo mission.
The lyrics say, "No matter how far the wanderer roams, how can he ever forget her, the Earth?"
Confined in a dark prison, he saw the Earth as an astronaut would have seen it. I think of these miners, like astronauts, who are being brought home.
The photos are of rocket cars created by artist Baron Margo, displayed in 2009 at L.A. Modernism.