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"Space" in space exploration could mean many different things to many different people here.

For example, I would say that almost everything that the NASA JPL does with government or corporate funding qualifies as "space exploration," in the vernacular, and should therefore be on-topic in this community. For example, planetary exploration like what we're seeing on Mars now and what we've seen in studies of Europa, Enceladus, and Titan all seem to me like "space exploration" and should therefore be on-topic here.

What do you think?

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Absolutely. Anything to do with spacecraft, or the science they return, is on topic here. Same goes with theoretical studies relating to such exploration.

There comes a point where the science is less on topic, specifically, if it comes from an aggregate view of the universe. The weather of exoplanets is probably off topic here, for instance. But any science which can directly point as a source a space mission would be on topic, at least, for "first order" science. In addition, stuff learned from Earth (Or likely Earth orbiting) telescopes is probably off topic, unless a very convincing argument could be made for why that specific question is on topic.

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  • $\begingroup$ "or the science they return"? At some point science conducted in space becomes off-topic (becoming geoscience, astrophysics, etc.). I.e., your wording could probably use some improvement. $\endgroup$ – Paul A. Clayton Jul 17 '13 at 11:57
  • $\begingroup$ @PaulA.Clayton: Added a bit more detail as to what might be off topic (Aggregate science, stuff learned from telescopes, etc) $\endgroup$ – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 17 '13 at 13:23
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You asked, so I have no choice but to reveal my fanatic love of the 2003 anime series called PlanetES. For background, the year is 2075 and Hachimaki is our hero trying to get a spot on the first manned mission to Jupiter. His background is orbital debris collection and he's normally not particularly philosophical, but he deserves credit for absolutely nailing this question.

PlanetES

Here's what he says (source):

オレの宇宙ってさ、ちっぽけだったんだよ。確かにいろんな悩みや答えが出ないことっていっぱいあるんだけど…だけどさ、この世に宇宙の一部じゃないものなんてなくって、オレですらつながっていて、それで初めて宇宙なんだって。

Okay, I'll have to translate. These are my own words, so other translations are surely different by bits here and there.

My own "space" is pretty small. It's true that we all have worries and questions we can't answer but... but, there's no part of this world that's not a part of space, it's all connected to even me, so you can say space starts from me.

For context, he was back on Earth when he said this.

In the grand scheme of things, Earth is just another planet. The deeper realization is that everything we learn and everything we study is all inside-out. The most true picture of our universe is the vast sprawling cosmos, but we start from a tiny place within all of that. By maturing, we grow our own universe, in that things beyond us and beyond our planet become important to us. It's all backwards!

The concept of "space" is like a quirky parody of the human condition. Space is the fundamental nature of the world we live in. The rare moments when humans focus on space are the times when we are truly impartial. Every other thing on the internet, in our minds, in our language, are part of a highly specific experiment that is life on Earth.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. $\endgroup$ – Osteoboon Aug 4 '13 at 0:54

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