Sirens and cheers went up today as a drill finally broke through to the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for 66 days, reports the AP. The milestone means that if the shaft is found to be solid, miners could start emerging one by one as soon as Tuesday. But that's a big if: Rescuers must now decide whether to pull the miners up through the shaft as is, or whether to reinforce it with tons of steel pipe.
The steel pipe would prevent falling rocks from blocking the shaft, but wouldn't save a miner in the event of another collapse. "You would have to put though a 600-meter hole a lot of pipes that weigh more than 150 tons," says Chile's mining minister. "And this structure can be set in a position that also could block the movement of the Phoenix (escape capsule). It's not an decision easy to make." (Read more Chile stories.)