You can send a machine out to conduct mineral surveys but you can't send one out to create diplomatic relations to other cultures.
Sure you can, if it has a carbon neutronium shell and a pure antiproton beam... In nine cases out of ten, diplomatic relations will very quickly follow!
And taking a picture of a planet is not the same as the visceral experience of going there and becoming immersed in its culture.
That would depend on the state of the virtual reality art, I guess.
Exploration for the sake of thrills is an elitist hobby, as only a tiny fraction of mankind will be attending. Bringing it to the masses via VR might help - but if it's deemed worth doing at all, it will probably very quickly escalate into true colonization. Or, if immersion is sought, immigration.