The first miner has reached the surface safely and rescue operations will continue well into Wednesday for the remaining 32 miners left 2,000 feet underground.
Florencio Avalos, the 31-year-old second-in-command of the miners, embraced his family, workers and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in the emotional moment at the surface. Avalos has been so shy that he volunteered to handle the camera rescuers sent down so he wouldn't have to appear on the videos that the miners sent up.
According to Fox News Reporter Steve Harrigan, the first rescuer, Mine Rescue Expert Manuel Gonzales, was sent in the rescue capsule that will carry 33 miners to freedom was lowered into the rescue tunnel, Tuesday night.
It is expected to take up to 36 hours, for the entire rescue operation to take place. Each ride up the shaft is expected to take about 20 minutes, and authorities expect they can haul up one miner per hour. When the last man surfaces, it promises to end a national crisis that began when 700,000 tons of rock collapsed Aug. 5, sealing the miners into the lower reaches of the mine.
Steam rushed from the hole into the frigid desert air — a sign of the humid, sauna-like conditions the men have endured for 68 days. No one in history has been trapped underground so long and survived.
According to Fox News, the missle like capsule was slightly damaged by the door during tests delaying the operation. There is a second capsule on seen in case the original capsule is damaged beyond repair. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera patted the side of the custom-built capsule proudly as the last act of the mine collapse ordeal approached.
"We made a promise to never surrender, and we kept it," Pinera said as he waited to greet the miners, whose endurance and unity captivated the world as Chile meticulously prepared their rescue.
The paramedics can change the order of rescue based on a brief medical check once they're in the mine. First out will be those best able to handle any difficulties and tell their comrades what to expect. Then, the weakest and the ill -- in this case, about 10 suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dental and respiratory infections and skin lesions from the mine's oppressive humidity. The last should be people who are both physically fit and strong of character.
Chile has taken extensive precautions to ensure the miners' privacy, using a screen to block the top of the shaft from the more than 1,000 journalists at the scene.
The miners will be ushered through an inflatable tunnel, like those used in sports stadiums, to an ambulance for a trip of several hundred yards (meters) to a triage station for a medical check. They will gather with a few relatives in an area also closed to the media, before being taken by helicopter to a hospital.
Families and reporters huddled around TVs and bonfires as the preliminary rescue order was announced. Florencio Avalos was to be the first miner out.
The last miner out is also decided: Shift foreman Luis Urzua, whose leadership was credited for helping the men endure 17 days with no outside contact after the collapse. The men made 48 hours' worth of rations last that entire time before rescuers could drill holes to them and send down more food.
Janette Marin, sister-in-law of miner Dario Segovia, said the order of rescue didn't matter. "What matters is that he is getting out, that they are all getting out.
"This won't be a success unless they all get out," she added, echoing the solidarity that the miners and people across Chile have expressed.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.