The Mercury spacecraft had a bell-shaped capsule a little less than 9 feet tall (2.74 meters) and 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide. It was so small that it could accommodate only a single astronaut at a time. The astronaut entered through a squar hatch in the side of the capsule and sat on a chair that had been specially shaped to fit his body. Directly in front of th chair was the control panel. The base of the capsule was enclosed in a heat shield designed to withstand the searing heat of re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Just before landing, the shield gave way to an inflated cushion, and parachutes sprang from the top of the capsule.