A rescuer in a missile-like escape capsule was lowered down a nearly half-mile tunnel in the Chilean desert Tuesday night to bring 33 miners to fresh air and freedom after 69 days - the longest anyone has ever been trapped underground and survived.
Mine rescue expert Manuel Gonzalez grinned and made the sign of the cross as he was lowered into the shaft. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera wished him good luck and urged him to bring the miners up in good shape.
Gonzalez made it to the bottom of the shaft apparently without incident and entered the chamber where the miners waited for their first human contact in more than two months.
A rescue expert with the state copper company Codelco, Gonzalez will be followed by Roberto Ros, a paramedic with the Chilean navy's special forces. Together they will prepare the miners for their rescue - expected to take as many as 36 hours for all to surface.
Rescue workers, the president and his ministers then sang the national anthem and chanted "Chi, Chi, Chi, Le, Le, Le" - the country's name - while horns honked and people cheered in the tent camp below.