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Prompted by Jon Ericson♦ in a comment to this question, I'd like to know if questions on history of space exploration are on-topic here. There's already a History.SE site, but I'm not sure folks there are tech savvy enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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My own take on the issue is that it is very hard to disentangle politics from tech of space exploration:

  • Space law was declared on-topic (it is set by politicians/diplomats/lawyers with technical advice)
  • Military aspects of space were declared on-topic (and we all know war is just politics by other means)

Complex political/technical/economic questions haven't been challenged at all:

I can see the danger of soft questions that @gerrit alludes to, but it seems we are protected from them by the general rules at StackExchange (no forum-like banter, no speculative answers).

Am skeptical that history buffs will be extremely knowledgeable in space history, to be honest.

There's another side of "space history" questions: To gather and maintain popularity, there has to be a wide range of topics accessible to non-professional enthusiasts. For them it may be easier to, say, run through a dozen books on history than to learn anew some real astrodynamics.

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  • $\begingroup$ There will always be some interdisciplinarity, but there's another point - same question might attract answers from different perspectives on different sites, on top of different audience. I not only support this @DeerHunter's notion, but also believe it's instrumental to our ability to differentiate ourselves, become a unique and equal entity in the Stack Exchange conglomerate of websites. $\endgroup$ – TildalWave Aug 16 '13 at 11:02
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If the answer is of technical or scientific nature: yes.

If the answer is of political or economical, or other soft nature: no.

Example of on-topic historical questions:

  • What power system did the Apollo landers use?
  • What were the characteristics of the on-board computer systems on the Venera probes?

Example of off-topic historical questions:

  • Why did the USA fail to be the first rocket power?
  • What caused the Space Race?
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  • $\begingroup$ Why did the Russians never land on the Moon? $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 15 '13 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ @DeerHunter, the Russian/moon is Q/A about technical elements driving a political outcome, where USA/Space is political elements driving a technical element. Also in IMHO the USA/space question is overly broad/speculative, and could be just easily be asked for pretty much any industrialized country; why didn't England, France, etc... $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Aug 16 '13 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesJenkins - the interaction of politics and technology is much more complicated than you describe. It is almost always about somebody making bad decisions at some stage. A little thought experiment: imagine a question about the Challenger or Columbia accidents. If you restrict yourself to technicalities, sooner or later you are bound to hit the same wall again - because the organizational framework condones and tolerates bad decision-making. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Aug 16 '13 at 10:52
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    $\begingroup$ @DeerHunter, concur. and I think we all agree that there is some grey line between what is in scope and what is out. Your USA/Space question seems to be on/near the line. No offense intending, I just think it is on the wrong side of the line. Currently those thinking it is on the right side of the line, seem to be in the majority. $\endgroup$ – James Jenkins Aug 16 '13 at 14:13

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