Thank you both for your kind words!
I've only worked out a couple of characters so far:
Rear Admiral Emil Nighthammer:
(Rigellian) Commander of the Verthandi
's attendant Starfleet forces. One of the few veterans in the contingent that remembers what it was like to go to war, his biggest worry is what will happen when his people, used to the rare experience of total peace, will someday have to shift to a combat footing. A solitary man, childless and still mourning the death of his wife of thirty years, when asked to command one of the expeditions, he jumped at the chance.
(Vulcan) She had been pleasantly surprised when her superiors had seen the logic of her proposal and supported her in presenting it to the Federation. Now she was taking the next logical step in directing one of the research teams. Accompanied aboard ship by her husband, Gael Nord (a Deltan) and their children Jora and Tanis (both girls), Devak takes on the role of a nomad civilization's scientific leader while continuing to find a balance at home with her very passionate mate and their still-learning-and-growing daughters.
(Human) Appointed by Federation Council Special Commission as the Civilian Administrator aboard Verthandi
. It will be her task to help keep life among the ship's civilian populace peaceful and orderly, as well as helping to balance it's needs with those of the scientists and defenders. Ironically, O'Dell was chosen for her genius at management, not her people skills. A notoriously shy and reserved individual, her only really deep connection with another sentient has been with her companion, Sarah Strangis, who will be aboard with her.
That's it so far. And Sheliak
, it's always in hundreds as far as this premise is concerned, so any number between one and nine (in years) that you want it to be.