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I was going to ask how Janet van Dyne has survived 30 years in the quantum realm without food or water, but I assume there is probably some kind of answer in the special powers she seems to have gained from said realm, which allow her to heal others.

However, there still lies the question of why Hank would assume she was still alive after 30 years. After all, he didn't know anything about her ability to heal and/or survive until after he had gone deep to rescue her. They were all very surprised at the fact that she had gained these powers after they had already gone through the elaborate rescue mission.

So why would they assume that she might still be alive after 30 years?

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They didn't assume she might be alive - it was clear in the first movie that Hank (and by extension Hope) believed she was dead (or at least lost forever).

That changed when in Ant-Man, Scott entered the Quantum Realm and then made it back. This pushed Hank and Hope to experiment in trying to create the Quantum Tunnel in order to find out more about it.

On their first attempt the tunnel was only open for a few seconds before it shut down. However during those few seconds, Scott had a "vision" of sorts of Janet playing hide and seek with Hope as a kid, and called Hank to tell him about it.

The nature of the "vision" is what told Hank and Hope that Janet was still alive and they redoubled their efforts to locate her, which of course they did with help from Janet herself, when she effectively broadcast herself through Scott and corrected a few errors in their machine.

On a related note, Janet may not have powers so much as she has absorbed a great deal of "quantum energy" that she can apparently release, as she does for Ava. Bill Foster had suggested that this might be the case and it was how they could try to save Ava/Ghost from the condition that was killing her, by infusing her with Janet's energies.

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    In the first scene though, Hank very explicitly says to Hope that he thinks Jane might still be alive and able to come back. But the only thing they seem to base this on is the fact that Scott was able to come back, but Scott was only there for a short time. It doesn't seem clear to me why they would think she had been able to survive for 30 years without food and water. – sanpaco Jul 8 '18 at 19:31
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I would like to add some points to the excellent answer by Dave.

Hank believed that the quantum realm was irrelevant of time and space. So he thought that Janet might be alive.

a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant

Of course this was not completely true as Janet aged but it is what he believed. He worked hard to rescue her and gave up. He decided to give it an another try after Scott came back from Quantum realm as pointed out by Dave,

That changed when in Ant-Man, Scott entered the Quantum Realm and then made it back. This pushed Hank and Hope to experiment in trying to create the Quantum Tunnel in order to find out more about it.

Then once Scott had his vision Hank then confirms that Janet is alive.

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