Are consumer space travel / space tourism questions on-topic?

We've received a question in our Q&A regarding consumer space travel, and I wasn't sure whether such questions are acceptable and on-topic, or off-topic. I'm personally inclined to think they're off-topic, as they have little to nothing to do with (scientific) space exploration on their own. They would however be well on-topic, if this was a Q&A on space travel. But we do have Travel Answers, and unless the questions are highly scientific or technological in nature, questions about space travel starting with when?, where?, who?, and how much? can as well be answered on Travel Answers.

Most relevant excerpt from our About page (all we really have at the moment on what's on/off-topic here):

Space Exploration Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for spacecraft operators, scientists, engineers, and enthusiasts. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about space exploration.

And here is my comment to the mentioned question, to serve as this discussion's starting point:

As this is a public beta website and we're still actively working on its definition, my comment will be possibly slightly argumentative, but I believe your question is off-topic, since it is inquiring about progress on space tourism and is not pertaining to space exploration, as per our About page. If you require a more insightful explanation, I suggest you start a new question on our Space Exploration Meta, where we could discuss how the wider community feels about questions regarding space tourism, if such questions are acceptable, or indeed off-topic. Thanks!

I want to see what's your take on this. Whatever we agree on should IMO also be included in relevant sections of our FAQ. Here's an active meta discussion on What should our FAQ contain?

As a rule, questions relating to space tourism should be on topic here. However, that's a very small field at the moment, and one that is highly speculative. If there is a question about something that's realistic, ie, something about Space Ship Two, for instance, then it would be on topic.

Specifically, I think sub-orbital flights should be on topic. We could fight about that with the aviation proposal, but I think that for the most part, the questions will find a better group here than on Aviation.

As far as Travel, I'd say they could go either direction. As of right now, there are 3 questions with the space tag there. I'd say leave them there, but they would probably find a better home here in most senses. People who know about space are likely to know about space tourism, but people who travel don't necessarily know about space.

Bottom line, Space Tourism should be on topic, but I would question the question asked, as it seems to be highly speculative in nature, and thus isn't a good question.

• I've included a point regarding Travel, can I pick your brains a bit more and ask of you to include what you make of that? Cheers! – TildalWave Jul 28 '13 at 1:20
• I tried very hard to make the question not speculative, and request facts which I haven't been able to find myself. I certainly don't want speculation in answers; I'm wondering if there is current research or any project in development that falls under the specified guidelines, not just a general "do you think this will happen or not." Do you have any suggestions about how I could improve the question? I'm certainly open to criticism, I want to make positive contributions to this site. – WendiKidd Jul 28 '13 at 1:23
• @WendiKidd - For what it's worth, I think it's a good question, even if it's probably slightly too broad and could solicit prolonged discussion (something not really appropriate for the Q&A format we're constrained to). I've voted to close it as off-topic, but later realized we don't really have a policy on such questions yet and I've jumped the gun a bit - I do apologize for that. I hope other reviewers will recognize my error due to the comments left under it, but I can't predict if they'll think it's too broad or argumentative. I wish it invited some good answers and settle the matter. :) – TildalWave Jul 28 '13 at 1:30
• @TildalWave Well for what it's worth we can now retract close votes, if you're so inclined ;) But yes, I think site definition is an important topic and I'm glad you raised this question. :) – WendiKidd Jul 28 '13 at 2:00
• @WendiKidd - Cheers for that, I completely forgot about it (but have heard it mentioned before). My first time using this option though, and I've retracted my vote to close due to your question being off-topic. Thanks again! – TildalWave Jul 28 '13 at 3:02
• @all, while I am not seeing any valid final comments for closure of this question,it currently has 2 close votes, and shows in the close vote queue. Does anyone here have un-retracted close votes? Can you offer rational for close? – James Jenkins Jul 28 '13 at 10:58
• @JamesJenkins - The two votes to close are stating the reason as "primarily opinion-based". I'm not entirely sure that's the vote to close reason that is the most warranted, but I've seen before reviewers selecting the wrong reason by mistake, usually the next closest to the one they wanted to select - in this case "too broad" that I'd personally agree with more. It could be, someone selected the currently last option by mistake, wanting to select the second to last option, and another reviewer then followed suit without giving it much though? – TildalWave Jul 30 '13 at 12:50

Tourism should be off-topic. As someone smarter than me once said, space exploration without science is tourism.

Having said that, I'd tweak that definition of exploration a bit a say that space exploration without science or discovery is tourism. Right now, space tourism is loaded with discovery: personal discovery, engineering discovery, business model discovery, and plain old scientific discovery.

I can't imagine anyone going into space today (for this moment in history at least) not being on-topic.

• This is what I was thinking when I asked the question. There has been so little human travel into space, it seemed to me like any question regarding it would be on topic. +1 :) – WendiKidd Jul 28 '13 at 3:31

I would say that tourism questions are on-topic.

However, the question being asked needs to be considered on an individual basis. If the question ois primarily speculative, such as "when will I be able to go to Pluto using warp drive?", then I would say to kill it.

If, however, it is something like, "When should I be able to buy a ticket to LEO", then I would say it's fine.

• How are these two questions different? – Erik Jul 29 '13 at 0:31
• Enhanced difference – Undo Jul 29 '13 at 3:48
• I still don't see a difference. Can you explain? – Erik Jul 29 '13 at 4:13
• I know in my head what I mean, but it's hard to get out. I'm thinking that purely theoretical questions (like my Pluto example) are OT. Questions about current or future developments which are possible (like my ticket example), should be on-topic. – Undo Jul 29 '13 at 4:16
• Ah -- I see the change you made now. So no questions about warp drives then? The guys here in Houston will be upset: nytimes.com/2013/07/23/science/… – Erik Jul 29 '13 at 4:26
• @Erik - There's a huge difference, even without the "warp drive" qualifier. Buying a ticket to LEO is TRL 9. It's already been done, seven times. It presumably will resume as soon as the US regains its ability to launch humans into space. Going to Pluto: Not in my lifetime, most likely not in yours, nor in your children's. Maybe in your children's children's children's lifetime. In other words, it's scifi/fantasy. – David Hammen Mar 8 '14 at 13:51
• Respectfully, going to LEO might be TRL 9, but when you add "buying a ticket" it is not. No one has (yet) made crewed flights to LEO economic. – Erik Mar 8 '14 at 18:46