Chilean miners got space underwear from Japan

Image: Space clothing
This Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) handout details a variety of space clothing that was tested by Japanese astronaut Takao Doi during the STS-123 shuttle mission in 2009. JAXA
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In an effort to lend a hand to rescue teams on the ground, Japan's space agency sent some "space underwear," candies and other Japanese sweets to the 33 trapped miners in Chile, according to news reports.

In late September, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency sent five sets of space underwear for each miner, as well as mint candies and other treats, according to Japan’s Kyodo News International.

"Most of the miners we have observed via news programs were stripped to the waist, so we are not sure if they tried our underwear," a JAXA official told Kyodo News. "Anyway, what is most important is that they would be lifted out safely to the surface." [Graphic: Perils of Underground Mining]

Efforts to evacuate the mine began Wednesday, and so far, the rescue team has successfully been able to use a rescue capsule to raise the miners one-by-one to the surface.

The undergarments were intended to help alleviate discomfort for the individuals in the collapsed mine, where temperatures were reported to hover around 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius). The special underwear was designed to absorb moisture and odor, JAXA officials said.

The undergarments are made of the same material worn by Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki earlier this year during a two-week mission to the International Space Station, JAXA officials said. In her first spaceflight, Yamazaki launched April 5 aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

The high-tech underwear was also tested by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata in 2009 during his 4-1/2-month stay aboard the space station. Lucky for his fellow crew members, the clothes were able to keep foul odors down in space, and passed a series of extra-long endurance tests during Wakata's stay on the orbiting outpost.

A team of doctors and engineers from NASA traveled to Chile for a week in early September to provide nutritional advice and psychological support for the trapped miners.

After the small gold and copper mine in northern Chile collapsed, rescuers were able to dig a 6-inch-wide tunnel to make contact with the trapped miners. But the rescue mission involved drilling a 2-foot-wide tunnel through 2,200 feet of solid rock — an effort that took over two months. The miners had been trapped since Aug. 5.