The three-man crew were taking part in what was expected to be a routine test (Credit: Nasa)

The Apollo missions were planned in two stages. Apollo 1 was the first manned mission in the ‘Block 1’ programme. Built by North American Aviation, it was designed to test a crew of three and a multitude of new spacecraft systems in orbit around the Earth. Apollo spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the Moon would be built in ‘Block 2’. “This was a hugely complicated spacecraft compared to anything they’d built before,” says Allan Needell, Apollo Curator at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. “There was a lot of testing and going back and forth, some of the work was substandard.”

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