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Re: backwards compatibility - Kevin Kelly writes in _What Technology Wants_[0] that Romans impacted the space shuttle - Roman roads were the model for most European roads, and were themselves based on the width of two horses walking next to each other, per "lane" (main use case of the time). Europeans brought this notion of roads with them to the US and built similar roads. Early cars had to fit on these roads, and early car roads were built on top of these horse roads. Eventually, when the space shuttle was designed, shipping its parts from factories across the company (on roads) had to be factored in. Therefore there were size/shape constraints on the shuttle that have their origins in Roman horse drawn carts.

(I'm recalling from memory, Kelly's explanation was probably better. Not something I've researched beyond finding that anecdote interesting.)

0. https://www.amazon.com/What-Technology-Wants-Kevin-Kelly/dp/...




Space Shuttle parts manufacturing was distributed around the country for political reasons to ensure continued support from Congress. It would have been safer and cheaper to manufacture all of the large components close to the launch site, or at least at sites reachable by barges. The Challenger disaster was caused by a booster o-ring failure but there was no technical need to build the boosters in pieces joined by O-rings; they could have been assembled as a single large unit.




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