Related: Rules for "Science Fiction" questions, How best to ensure my question will not "get migrated" to World Building?

Recently, I asked a (now-deleted-by-me) question about the fictional use of a real spacecraft in a "hard" science fiction novel -- specifically, what issues / difficulties / impossibilities would be encountered in making a pretty specific set of modifications to serve a pretty specific fictional mission rather different from the mission this spacecraft served in real life.

While I admit to being somewhat clumsy in formulating my actual question, it would seem like if "what would make this pretty defined task impossible or require extra workarounds?" is unfocused, then a good many questions that were answered well with many upvotes would have been unfocused as well.

Should I have been more specific in defining my exact parameters? Or even taken it out of context of the science fiction novel? I got one comment that amounts to "in scifi, whatever the author wants can happen" even though this barely had any bearing on my question.

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    $\begingroup$ It's hard to answer your question about a question that can't be read because it's deleted. You can still get a link to it from your profile page (select questions, scroll to the bottom, look for "recently deleted"). It might be better if you include a link here. You can include just the link to the deleted question (which isn't really deleted at all btw) or you can also undelete it for the purposes of review. You can then leave a comment at the bottom of the question linking to this meta post, that way people will better understand why it's undeleted. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 12 '19 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ space.stackexchange.com/questions/40356/… $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage Mod
    Dec 12 '19 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ The question didn't have a terribly "specific set of modifications" - the book may have had, but if so, they weren't conveyed in the question. Your question starts by being critical of the author's style, which isn't relevant at all here. World building or my be the SF&F stack might be better places to critique the book. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Dec 12 '19 at 15:36

I think the problem is that the real-world application of this hypothetical scenario is unclear. The community discourages questions regarding off-the-wall hypothetical situations unless there is a clear real-world connection. This addressed in "What types of questions should I avoid asking?" in the Help Center:

[avoid] asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”

An example of an off-topic hypothetical:

Escape velocity of Alpha Centauri B: What is it?

You can see here that there is no immediate real-world connection. We are not anywhere close to having a craft around Alpha Centauri B in order to have one attempt escape. It is not clear that if we did, that a supply ship situation would be necessary.

An example of an on-topic hypothetical:

Could "peak Apollo levels" of support have gotten NASA astronauts to Mars in the 1980's?

At one time this idea was actually considered. As described in the answers, if the circumstances were right it is possible that this could have occurred.

An even more clearly on-topic hypothetical:

How easy would opening an Apollo capsule following dry landing be?

This question describes a contingency that would have had to be planned for. Even this question was controversial because of the fictional scenario I used to frame the question.

The community is very sensitive about hypothetical scenarios. There doesn't just need to be a real-world connection, but the question needs to be carefully worded to highlight that application.


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