Well, that was fast.
Last Wednesday (March 18), SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk offered to start manufacturing ventilators for coronavirus patients if need be. Medical practitioners and politicians urged him to do so, stressing that many hospitals around the country will have a shortage of breathing machines as the pandemic progresses.
So, Musk's engineers got to work — and they've apparently been very busy.
We expect to have over ~1200 to distribute this week. Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the harder part.March 22, 2020
"We expect to have over ~1,200 [ventilators] to distribute this week. Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the harder part," Musk said via Twitter on Sunday (March 22).
SpaceX and Tesla are both well suited to make ventilators, Musk said last week. After all, every Tesla car features a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, and SpaceX engineers developed a life-support system for the company's Crew Dragon astronaut taxi, which is scheduled to launch its first crewed mission in May.
That being said, Musk and his teams are still seeking advice from experts.
"Just had a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators. Very impressive team!" Musk said in a tweet on Saturday (March 21). (Medtronic builds and sells a variety of medical devices.)
Both SpaceX and Tesla are working on the new ventilators, Musk said. And other companies are doing so as well. On Sunday, for example, President Donald Trump gave Ford and General Motors, along with Tesla, an official manufacturing green light.
Musk is helping hospitals deal with the outbreak in other ways as well. Over the weekend, he told CleanTechnica that his companies will soon start distributing 250,000 N95 masks, critically needed medical respirators that help keep doctors and nurses safe during the outbreak.
Some of this protective gear has already hit the road, making its way to UCLA Health Hospital in Los Angeles and the Seattle home of a doctor at the University of Washington Medical Center who's researching the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, which is known as COVID-19.
Musk is also offering advice about the outbreak via Twitter. For instance, he has stressed repeatedly that panic about COVID-19 could end up being worse than the disease itself.
- Coronavirus outbreak shakes the space industry: Here are the biggest effects so far
- With coronavirus spreading, NASA may tweak astronaut prelaunch quarantine plans
- Getting sick in space: How would NASA handle an astronaut disease outbreak?
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
All About Space magazine (opens in new tab) takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through our solar system and beyond, from the amazing technology and spacecraft that enables humanity to venture into orbit, to the complexities of space science.