The blunt-end design for the Command Module was chosen to build upon experience gained with the similarly shaped Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. The spacecraft reentered the atmosphere with its protective heat shield (the widest end of the spacecraft) facing forward. Layers of special "ablative" material on the shield were purposely allowed to burn away during reentry to help dissipate the extremely high temperatures caused by atmospheric friction.
This is the hatch from the Apollo 11 Command Module. This single hatch could be opened outward in five seconds by pumping the handle to activate a pressurized nitrogen cylinder. Prior to the tragic fire in January 1967 in which three astronauts died, there were two hatches on the Apollo command module requiring 90 seconds to open.
Apollo Guidance and Navigation
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