I began thinking about this with all the talk about Mars Rovers and Voyager crossing (or trying to cross) into interstellar space. Obviously right now our unmanned spacecraft can go places where our manned spacecraft can't. I would assume that the same would be true for Starfleet since unmanned spacecraft don't have to worry about the human lifespan, keeping them alive ect. How far do you think Starfleet has actually explored and do you feel that "No Man Has Gone Before" counts space probes.
A couple of thoughts popped up in my head.
1. Star Trek is perhaps the most optimistic sci-fi universe we have and in it, we're only really operating in a quadrant of the Galaxy. When you think about the actual universe, the thought of exploring other galaxies, or perhaps other local clusters, it's such a distance that even if we become an advanced species, could we explore it? How far has 24th century technology carried us?
Do we have probes in other galaxies (although they are millions of lightyears away so maybe improbable)? How far have we mapped out?
2. Now in the 24th Century we have plenty of other Alien "Empires" around us so does that mean when we go exploring we butt up against other civilizations and instead of just exploring we move into diplomacy mode? With Starfleet space basically surrounded by Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians and more - is there even a frontier to send probes?
3. Since technology is so advanced, has Starfleet done away with deep space probes and just uses starships?
4. This has always been a depressing thought of mine. In the Star Trek universe, we've mastered light speed. That's really technically not fast enough for us to explore other galaxies that are a HUGE distance away. So we're basically contained in the Milky Way, which is big enough, but that's our small pond and that's as far as man can get until we evolve into basically another race that maybe are as powerful as Q or something?
I've always wondered if light speed isn't possible, then we're essentially stuck on Earth and the Solar System for the very forseeable future. This is it. While we know there is a bigger universe out there, we can't get to it. You're talking thousands upon thousands of years to get to the next star and there might not be any light there. Meanwhile the resources on Earth are finite and overpopulation is becoming a problem. Are we doomed?
And if the Star Trek universe can't make it to another galaxy, are they at the mercy of just how long the Milky Way will last?
I know this is crazy, out of the box stuff, but I'm just wondering with Starfleet's mission to explore, just how far out there have they fictionally gotten?