Over two thousand years ago, the Imperial Roman Empire attempted to conquer the world. They built the first long-distant roads in Europe (and England) for their army to access the new lands. These roads have been used ever since.
The standard Roman war chariots were initially created just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. These Roman chariots formed the initial ruts in these newly-formed roads.
Those who utilized the roads thereafter spaced their wheels to prevent the wagon wheels from being damaged on the ruts. The distance between the ruts was 4 feet & 8.5 inches. Thus, all future wagons in Europe (and England) were built to match the ruts in all of the roads. If they were built with different wheel spacing, wagon wheels would be subject to damage or being broken.
When the British created the pre-railroad tramways, they used the same gauge -- 4 feet & 8.5 inches between wheels, because those who built the tramways utilized the same jigs and tools they used for building horse-drawn wagons -- thus, same wheel spacing.
When the British built their first railroad tracks, they used the same gauge -- 4 feet & 8.5 inches -- still in use today.
When the Unites States created the U.S. railroad system, the U.S. standard railroad gauge was 4 feet & 8.5 inches.
Time Marches on -- the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Morton-Thiokol Company manufactured the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs preferred to make them larger (wider) but were constrained by the US railroad gauge of 4 feet & 8.5 inches because the railroad line from the factory runs through a tunnel in a mountain. Since the SRBs had to fit within the tunnel, the engineers deigned them to a smaller size.
In January of 1986, the space shuttle Challenger ended in tragedy and the death of 7 crew members, attributed to a solid-fueled Thiokol rocket booster.
In 1989, Morton & Thiokol split -- the chemical division went with Morton and the propulsion division went with Thiokol, Inc.
In 1998, Thiokol changes its company name to Cordant Technologies.
It's ironic how much impact being a horse's ass can make on the world. And in human history, there have always been more horse's asses than horses.
Quote for the Day -- “You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him participate in synchronized diving.” Cuthbert Soup
Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and has a driveway of two worn ruts in the earth, wide enough for a standard automobile, leading out to a dirt county road, wide enough for about a dozen horse's asses.