The Shuttle was touch & go, needing the best technology we had to keep it going. & when we started sloughing off(paying more attention to penny pinchers, than the engineers), then it failed. Initially designed to fly 99 missions, shuttles were exceedingly lucky to get 50 missions each without more failures than they had.The Space Shuttle was a bad vehicle from the start. It was poorly designed & extremely dangerous, as we found out the hard way. Good riddance.
We are considerably better off now.
Don't think they were poorly designed, except to expect technology to survive through MANY dozens of 17,500 mph slammings into the atmosphere was just too too.......
I'm so thankful (& surprised) that the shuttles didn't start failing multiple times in a row & that our astronauts were so brave. I think the astronauts knew the problems of the shuttle, were asked to keep quiet, & bravely soldiered on, as their duty. Most certainly engineers knew the problems, & tried to work to solve problems within the limits of the penny pinching budgets.
No other country even attempted shuttles. The russians just played a Pee-R game with their vaporware shuttle espionage copy of the U.S. shuttle.
Actually, american budgets weren't penny pinching. It was the russians who got the most bang for the buck. A genius russian scientist in the 60's designed the basic rocket lifters that were modified & used for decades. That's why the russian rockets had their own style. The rocket, when extra lift capacity was needed, was modified for strapping together many multiple boosters. Instead of new rocket design programs, the same rocket was carried forward, decade after decade. The russian rockets were great, able to launch in colder conditions than american rockets that just weren't able to do(or usually didn't need to).
But the russians probably got to the point where nothing they did with their basic rocket could match the magnificence of the Saturn 5 booster, that was needed for a manned moon mission.