I'm studying space exploration MSc at the TUDelft (netherlands), so this site naturally attracts me. However I see alot of questions on this site I would deem as "way too broad to answer".

Sure many of those questions I could answer and give some insight, but I'll end up writing books before I even get to the real question. As both because the question itself is broad (Even for a PHd), and more importantly: I wonder how many steps I could skip.

Take for example: If the Apollo mandate were delivered today, would the mission vehicle(s) and profile be similar?

I could go into detail about any such development over the last 50 years. And to correctly describe the changes and the effects of those researches would require me to explain post graduate research...

Or take: What is the largest hurdle of the mission to Mars? This is actually impossible to answer before doing it, and one could keep guessing for infinite time focussing on anything.

Or Does a mission to Venus orbit require less propellant than a similar mission to Mars?
The question itself might be easy to answer, but an actual good answer requires understand of delta-v budgets, gravity losses and specific impulse. All terms not even mentioned by the poster.

So what is the correct action I should take?


So what is the correct action I should take?

As you deem appropriate, actually. Our review system is supposed to be community driven, so it's up to you, and all of us, to find a suitable balance where we accept broad questions (and probably also answer them in a broad sense then), and where we start asking of their authors to be more specific in comments, or even vote to close as too broad.

That said, it does take a bit of a feeling for it (we don't want to close all the questions as too broad either, especially since those asking them can't be expected to know everything about it - they wouldn't have questions otherwise), so I guess it's beneficial to us that members first require some earned site privileges before they're allowed to take certain action. We're constantly balancing between too broad, or broad but borderline answerable questions without threads themselves becoming a never ending story in the comments to contributions (which does become tiring, people like to move on at some point in time, and comments sometimes just keep on coming despite anyone being able to suggest improvements to them - in which case I suggest you comment with "that could be a new question" or something along those lines and rather avoid prolonged discussion or always answering follow-up question in comments).

So, there isn't any single, correct action. You can request from OPs in comments to be more specific. You can vote to close (put on hold really, with OP being invited to improve the question) as too broad. Or, before you can vote, flag to close so the question finds its way into our review queues. Or, any combination of those. You can also edit contributions, or suggest an edit at least, and make it more focused yourself. But please try to follow OP's intentions with those, and don't answer parts of them in the questions. For comments, use shorthands to link to most commonly referred to help sections, and to make it easier on you (this does get awfully repetitive).

  • $\begingroup$ I know it's community driven. However all communities have their own set of on-topicness. Take for example the difference between mathematica.SO and math.SE - both mathematical based sites but greatly different in on topicness. I wonder how this community expects to go: into the details or into the general overview. Should I take simple undergraduate stuff into account when answering (hohmann transfer orbits etc)? Or should I focus on layman's terms, and just show wikipedia articles. $\endgroup$ – paul23 May 11 '15 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ Well the worst for me, is when I notice that things are deemed a "hoax" - on things I actually plan to do my master thesis. (Feasibility analysis for Mars One the direct cause). - But I leave that problem for another discussion. I'd like to know how the community feels about getting actual experienced people here. $\endgroup$ – paul23 May 11 '15 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ @paul23 - I'd say the community entirely welcomes both experienced people and innocent beginners. Some of the experienced people seem to genuinely enjoy answering very innocent questions. These questions have not seemed to dampen the number of sophisticated questions that come in at all. Consider that enthusiasm for space exploration among the general public is entirely what determines what is possible in the field - they pay for it. Even private enterprises are highly affected by public support, if exploration is one of their goals. Encouraging curiosity aids your professional goals. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Jul 4 '15 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ @briligg "Consider that enthusiasm for space exploration among the general public is entirely what determines what is possible in the field" - are you a authority on this field? Otherwise please don't state this: I know that the budgets of communication satellites is nowadays way way higher than those used for research. And communication is typically a very market driven field. $\endgroup$ – paul23 Jul 9 '15 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ @paul23 by exploration i don't mean launches to LEO for business. I mean projects that explore - that seek discovery, new models. It is everything done by space agencies, and everything where public perception of value vs risk has an impact - such as Mars One. $\endgroup$ – kim holder Jul 9 '15 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ Communication satellites are typically not LEO (way to much deviations using from higher order pertubations and atmospheric drag). I get your point, but even the research is nowadays not really funded by the governments, but rather companies fund the research (safer to split the risks of R&D that way for companies). $\endgroup$ – paul23 Jul 10 '15 at 20:16

If the question seems broad, then answer in general terms. In the example you presented, an overview of design and profile concerns would be appropriate. Of course this may generate specific questions of more detail, but then those questions would be independent.


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