Crazy Eddie wrote:
And yet, about the only thing that has ever been consistent in every Star Trek series is that every starship, no matter what its current assignment, will default to exploration as soon as all their government-mandated chores are done.
You might be right, but then when exploring, it's expected that you'll meet other ships that are also exploring
That still doesn't explain how a ship like Voyager would immediately default to a mission of exploration the moment their ASSIGNED mission is completed. If nothing else, it establishes that in the absence of specific orders from Starfleet, every starship IN the fleet has a standing imperative to explore space and collect detailed data on anything and everything they encounter and to continue to do so even when that information serves no conceivable military or strategic benefit to the Federation or to the ship itself.
Moreover, we have learned from dialog in DS9 that it is fairly common on Starfleet vessels to be equipped with science labs and amenities for civilian researchers and staff. That, again, is another feature Starfleet ships have in common with full-time research vessels and is not
shared with their military counterparts: with a few highly notable exceptions, every
starship can function as a research platform, but not all of them are suitable for combat.