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.


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.

  • $\begingroup$ 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

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?
  • $\begingroup$ Why did the Russians never land on the Moon? $\endgroup$ Aug 15 '13 at 16:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @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... $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '13 at 10:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ Aug 16 '13 at 14:13

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