Proposal: Space Exploration and Technology

Proposed Q&A site for spacecraft operators, scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts, to discuss the building, launching, operating, history, and future of space technology.

This site, based on the wording of the proposal, presumably will be devoted to dealing with science fact. At what point would questions dealing with the future of space use become science fiction and be off topic?

2 Answers 2


The normal standard for SE sites is that speculative questions are off-topic. In most cases questions about the future are speculative. However this is not the case for questions about the future where that future has been somewhat planned.

So (at a site about the Olympics) a questions "Where will the Summer Olympics be in 2016" would be on-topic because it's known. "Where will the Summer Olympics be in 2032" is off-topic because it's not known, and any answer can be only speculation.

So I would suggest some guidelines:

  • "When is such-and-such a probe due to arrive at its destination" is on-topic, even if the answer is dozens of years in the future: assuming that the arrival is planned.
  • "How might we terraform Mars" is off-topic because it is speculative.
  • "What plans does NASA have for Terraforming Mars?" is on-topic because it can be answered without speculation (even if the answer is "none right now"). Strictly speaking it isn't even about the future, because the plans exist now, even if they are for the future. Likewise current research into interplanetary drives are on-topic, while speculation about possible interplanetary drives is off-topic
  • 1
    Speculation, yes. But I think some work could be done on what is the current theory on how to do advanced topics, such as terraforming. But I see your point. Aug 18, 2012 at 1:17
  • That's exactly what I meant to say. CURRENT plans and research are on-topic, even if they are plans and research for the far future. Stuff we MIGHT do is off topic. Aug 18, 2012 at 1:58
  • I think perhaps "What technologies have we developed that would be useful in terraforming Mars" is still on-topic. Instead the question "When are we going to terraform Mars" would be speculative and off-topic.
    – Joe Z.
    Feb 22, 2013 at 14:22
  • Although terraforming Mars is a speculative topic, it's not strictly about prediction of a future event.
    – Joe Z.
    Feb 22, 2013 at 14:23

I would basically say that if it is done in the guise of real space travel, using currently accepted real methods, then it is on topic. But it has to be in the guise of how do we do something, and not related to a specific story. I would even put some topics that are very advanced today, but have been considered in science fiction, so long as the question focuses on real science and engineering.

So, these would be on topic (Although they might not be good questions)

  • How could we get to Mars?
  • How could we terraform Mars?
  • How to send a solar sail probe to another solar system?
  • What would be the best way to deflect an asteroid aimed at Earth?

And these would be off topic:

  • How do I build a warp drive?
  • How can I build a teleporter?
  • Where did the energy to spin the Ringworld come from?
  • Are space rifts real?

More questionable, but I would lean towards on topic:

  • How much energy would it require to spin a Ringworld (With some fairly specific measurements required)
  • How could a Dyson sphere be built?
  • How can Mars be terraformed?
  • 3
    BTW, feel free to steal any of these ideas to be used as questions. I've already used everything I can, so... Aug 16, 2012 at 10:59
  • Suggested edit: The first 3 questions of the 1st list are missing a '?'. Jan 26, 2013 at 3:59
  • Would the questions about the mining perspectives for minerals on asteroids on-topic? Jun 26, 2013 at 19:24
  • @ŁukaszLech: Absolutely! Jun 29, 2013 at 14:31

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