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Go Back   The Trek BBS > Star Trek TV Series > The Next Generation

The Next Generation All Good Things come to an end...but not here.

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Old March 6 2013, 09:30 AM   #1
HansentheSwede
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How far has Starfleet explored

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?
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Old March 6 2013, 09:57 AM   #2
CorporalCaptain
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

In Where No One Has Gone Before, the Enterprise-D traveled to a place over a billion light years from our galaxy.
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Old March 6 2013, 02:31 PM   #3
Timo
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

And in "The Alternative Factor" already, Starfleet could basically immediately report that the space-time hiccup at Kirk's location was felt "on every quadrant of the galaxy and far beyond".

How far has 24th century technology carried us?
Referring to the above, perhaps 23rd or even 22nd century technology already did the trick, by taking us to folks who already have contacts to other galaxies? That sounds like the most positive aspect of Star Trek imaginable: that while you can explore in good faith and with good intentions, you don't need to - you can also simply be nice to others and get what you want that way.

Do we have probes in other galaxies (although they are millions of lightyears away so maybe improbable)?
When Kirk probed out of the galaxy in "Where No Man", he seemed to consider it impossible that another Earth vessel could have done this before him - or at least 200 years before him. Then again, VOY "Friendship One" shows that in mere 150 or so years (and possibly much less), an Earth probe without a crew spanned half the galaxy already. So primitive probes launched then could be surveying the dwarf galaxies around Milky Way already in Picard's time - and slightly more advanced probes, the result of early cooperation and synergy between the member cultures of the UFP, could have overtaken them and be at least halfway to Andromeda already.

How far have we mapped out?
Individual sorties have probably spanned great distances. But those don't create much of a map yet: they only create a thin thread of known space between the A and B of that incredible journey. And the longer the journey, the less likely that the thread is anything but an uninteresting beeline from A to B (and back).

Since technology is so advanced, has Starfleet done away with deep space probes and just uses starships?
A modern probe is referred to in TNG "Tin Man" as having been the prime means of obtaining information from deep space. In the episode, a crewed starship could be sent to do a closer study in a matter of days - but apparently it would not have been logistically possible to spare a starship for the original mission of going to a random place and seeing whether there's anything interesting there.

Probably most of exploration in the TNG era is still conducted with probes, and crews only follow if there's something of interest there. Back in TOS, there might have been the additional step of establishing automated supply depots for staged missions (Delta Vega in "Where No Man) if the need to send a crew arose - much as with old-time polar exploration or mountaineering.

In hard numbers, TNG quoted either 11% (season 1, "Where No One") or 19% (season 2, "The Dauphin") of the galaxy as having been explored. This is unlikely to mean "seen through a telescope", because even our current telescopes of limited penetrating power can basically see something like 50% of the Milky Way already. Whether it means "visited by probes" or "visited by people associated with the UFP", we don't know. The percentages could be attained by going just a few thousand lightyears into deep space in multiple directions, though, so starship visits (not just by the glamorous few explorer vessels, but by the sum total of all sorts of transports, smugglers, fugitives and whatnot) just might account for it all.

Even the sudden jump from 11% to almost double that might be "real", consisting of some well-informed culture suddenly making contact with the Federation and sharing its information. Would any of the contacts made by our TNG heroes after "Where No One" count? The Ferengi seem well-traveled, but getting the information out of them would be expensive. The Jarada might be bigger players than we think. Or perhaps the Tkon Sentinel revealed something useful in the aftermath of "The Last Outpost". Them, or the Aldeans. (My money is on the Tkon; the Iconians would also be a possibility if not for the fact that "Contagion" only comes after "The Dauphin".)

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 shouldn't stop us from going places. It just stops us from ever coming back. But that has never stopped exploration and expansion here on Earth. Most migrations were irreversible, most voyages of settlement never involved sailing back. There's time for mankind to expand to the entire Milky Way a million times over at one-hundredth lightspeed - much like there has been time for Man to settle the entire globe at essentially crawling pace, at most ten kilometers a year by current guesstimates.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old March 6 2013, 03:58 PM   #4
RAMA
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

HansentheSwede wrote: View Post
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?
We discuss a lot of this in the Ancient Astronaut thread in Science and Technology:

http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=179554

Several key points:

Even with advanced starships Gene Roddenberry didn't want to make too big of a setting to play in, with 200,000ly to work with and 200+ billion stars, this galaxy is a big enough playground. Compare that to Star Wars that treats flights across the galaxy like a 1930s pulp mag.

Probes should still be useful and in reality a starseed project or neumann probe exploration would be the quickest way to explore all of the galaxy. Even at sublight, neumann probes can be used to reach both the galaxy AND other galaxies within 500,000 years. Exploration and settlement would follow.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-re...umann_probes_2

Seeder ships from Scifi Science:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfEF3ED9hGg
http://videos.howstuffworks.com/scie...-you-video.htm

Full episode here:

http://www.vudu.com/movies/#!overview/304339/Sci-Fi-Science-Galactic-Colonization

Extra-galaxial probes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQTf...e=results_main

Star Trek galaxy maps:

http://nerdovore.blogspot.com/2013/0...trek-maps.html
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Old March 6 2013, 05:02 PM   #5
t_smitts
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

I remember on that special that Bob Picardo hosted just before the "Voyager" premiere, it was said that 7% of the galaxy had been explored around the time of TOS, and an additional 15% around TNG.

Not sure what their source for this was.
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Old March 6 2013, 06:01 PM   #6
LOKAI of CHERON
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

Beyond the "official" numbers quoted, I personally felt a real vibe of going forth into the unknown in the early seasons of TNG - the great unexplored mass of the galaxy! I don't know, somewhere around season three, the show seemed to lose that sense of "wonder", to the detriment of the programme IMHO.
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Old March 6 2013, 08:11 PM   #7
Timo
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

The funny thing is, Season 1 definitely had this feel - despite featuring plots that explicitly took place well within already explored space!

After "Encounter at Farpoint", which itself takes place at an already known world, only "Where No One" and, somewhat surprisingly, "Symbiosis", feature locations previously truly unknown to the Federation or substantially distant of well-established UFP strongholds. "Justice", while featuring an all-new world, takes place right next to a UFP colonization project; "When the Bough Breaks" describes the discovery of a mythical planet a few hours away from the beaten path; "The Arsenal of Freedom" involves a "mystery" world previously visited both by long range probes and a starship and well known by reputation; "Skin of Evil" finds our heroes within shuttlecraft range of some conference location or another...

It's actually rather amusing how little is made of the fact that the two worlds of "Symbiosis" are new to the Federation.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old March 6 2013, 09:16 PM   #8
at Quark's
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

When Dax and Sisko exit the wormhole on the GQ for the very first time, the computer identifies the Idran System as less than 5 ly away. Basis of the identification is an 22nd century analysis of the 'Quadros-1 probe of the gamma quadrant'.

Of course, we don't know if that means Quadros-1 actually was in the gamma quadrant. If it is, we'd probably have to subtract at least another 70 years from that time, as I think it would be unlikely 24th century starships could still not fly as fast as a 21st/22nd century probe. So I would tend to think this was actually a long-distance analysis. But still... the 'Friendship' ep from VOY doesn't rule it out imho.
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Old March 6 2013, 09:30 PM   #9
Timo
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

The funny thing there is, Dax sees a star system five lightyears away, one she calls the "nearest", and Quadros-1 data helps identify that system and get a positional fix. But in "Destiny", there's a star right next to the wormhole, giving a comet a pronounced and glowing tail!

Perhaps stars alone give no real possibility of fixes, there being too many almost exactly alike - so Dax ignored the one right there and wanted the computer to analyze the nearest star system, with a more unique ID thanks to the presence of planets?

The thing is, the UFP has access to powerful telescopes that can probably give fairly good spectrography on distant planets; today's systems are almost capable of that already, after all. Yet the UFP or Starfleet clearly lacks the means of getting realtime data on distant systems - it cannot tell that the Doomsday Machine is eating planets or the Ceti Alpha system is being rearranged until a starship pays a close and personal visit.

Various explanations may be offered. Perhaps "realtime telescopes" (subspace sensors or whatnot) lack the required range, even in the case of massive installations such as the Argus Array, just like it seems that starship sensors only tend to get "passive", time-lagging data such as planetary classifications beyond a certain range, and have to fly close to the planet to get up-to-date information. Or perhaps subspace telescopes do have the range, but are extremely expensive to build and operate (Argus Array again), and thus have only been able to map a tiny fraction of the galaxy so far, focusing on one target at a time. With the number of interesting targets out there, it might be thousands or even millions of years before a telescope could afford to take a second look at Ceti Alpha, for example.

The exact nature of the limitations is debatable. But their existence seems obvious, and gives Starfleet the reason to keep sending both crewed and uncrewed exploration spacecraft. Some other unknown but pressing reason may make them favor crewed over uncrewed - or then the thousands of probe missions per each crewed sortie simply go unreported in the episodes and movies.

Timo Saloniemi
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Old March 7 2013, 12:12 AM   #10
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

Not sure if it answers the question, but this is definitely cool

http://www.startrekdesktopwallpaper....per_1600.shtml
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Old March 7 2013, 09:04 AM   #11
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

There should be more threads like this one.

Hansentheswede wrote:
I know this is crazy, out of the box stuff
Hardly. Your mind is just starting a journey that many have trodden before. Try reading some Stephen Baxter or Ben Bova to get you started. And RAMA has provided some excellent links to provide food for thought.

Regarding the rather depressing thought that we are stuck in the Solar system with finite resources - it doesn't have to be that way. The technology exists now, with some fine-tuning, to produce a "generational ship". Well worth reading about. Even at sub-light speeds we could have the galaxy colonised within a couple of millenia.
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Old March 7 2013, 09:41 AM   #12
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

"Beyond the "official" numbers quoted, I personally felt a real vibe of going forth into the unknown in the early seasons of TNG - the great unexplored mass of the galaxy! I don't know, somewhere around season three, the show seemed to lose that sense of "wonder", to the detriment of the programme IMHO."


I felt the vibe going forth into the unknown was pretty much absent from TNG onward. TNG had its merits in other areas, but the whole first contact thing was rarely done. They could be non-aligned worlds, and it could have been the first time the alien species was shown, but the world was already known. That would be disclosed in the initial captain's log exposition. So right from the get go you lose all the mystery of what it is they're coming across.

(BTW, I think that's why Darmok is one of the best episodes because at least you have a species that is truly alien and they can't even communicate properly.)

They tried to recover this vibe in Voyager, but in the context of an "accident", almost like Starfleet no longer had a true mission to explore the rim. Then once there, they brought in familiar faces like Q and the Borg.

By the time Enterprise rolled around I had pretty much given up.
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Old March 7 2013, 08:14 PM   #13
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

Not being able to exceed light speed does not mean we can't get to other solar systems. As you approach light speed space and time contract. So, if you travel at around .88c for a year, from your perspective you will have moved .88ly in one year, but from Earth's perspective, double that in twice that time.

So, if you accelerate to .88c relative to Earth, then decelerate back into Earth's frame of reference, you will seem to have traveled 1.76ly in one year, even though from Earth's perspective, you have done it in two.

It is probably pretty reasonable to think Starfleet has sent deep space probes into other galaxies, but they'd still probably take awfully long to get there, and then years to send subspace communications back.
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Old March 7 2013, 10:14 PM   #14
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

How much do you think Starfleet would know about other parts of the Galaxy? Star locations? Since everything in motion it would be hard because once you have a "photo" of everything it changes. Do you think they would have a general understanding of the local cluster too? It seems to me that the general fleet stays pretty much in known space, so I'm assuming there's some kind of deep space division or corp that takes the really big leaps. Do you think Starfleet would ever invest in generation ships or anything like that?
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Old March 8 2013, 12:07 AM   #15
JirinPanthosa
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Re: How far has Starfleet explored

Here and there we're given reasons to think there are still deep space exploration ships like the original premise. Remember in that DS9 episode, The Olympia was assigned to an eight year mission in deep space with no contact with home.
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