The devs have occasionally talked about someday revamping exploration in STO; so I thought I'd rattle off a few ideas here, and invite anyone else with thoughts on the matter to do the same.
The biggest problem with the current exploration missions is how repetitive they get; so it seems to me that the first thing to do would be to make what could happen a little more uncertain by randomizing certain results.
You receive a distress call from a ship belonging to your faction; they say they are under attack and require immediate assistance.
You arrive at the designate coordinates and find:
that the ship is still under attack.
that the ship has driven off its attackers but is badly damaged.
a debris field with a few escape pods floating around in it.
You drive off the attackers, or beam over to the damaged ship to render aid, or rescue the crew from the escape pods. Then:
the mission ends.
some of the crew turn out to have been abducted during the attack, and need to be rescued.
Assuming the mission hasn't ended, you follow the warp trail of the attackers to another system. Upon arriving you find:
the enemy ships are moving through the system at impulse. Sensors reveal the captured crew members are aboard; so disable the ships and beam them to safety (possibly there may be a diplomatic solution available).
the enemy ships are positioned near a base or planet. Sensors reveal the captured crew members have been beamed off the ships, and into a holding facility. Destroy the enemy ships, and beam to the facility to rescue the captured crew members.
the enemy ships have already departed, but sensors reveal that the captured crew have been transported to a facility in the system. Beam down to rescue them.
If you rescued the ship, and it wasn't too badly damaged, then it might (or might not) join you for this part; and the mission ends with the rescue of the crew members. If you rescued the ship but it was badly damaged, either because it was disabled when you arrived, or because it took a lot of damage fighting along side you, then you take the crew members back to their ship.
Maybe the mission ends there; or maybe the damage to the ship was extensive, and you need to give them a tow to a starbase. Maybe the mission ends there; or maybe you are ordered to go back and deliver a warning from your faction, so they don't try that again (which may or may not result in another fight).
Each bit would be short and simple; but it could result in anything from just clicking on some escape pods then going home, to a full blown multi-stage mission.
There really should be a sense of going somewhere new each time you go exploring. I accept that generating random terrain might be a big much, but what about a random sector map? It's a little disconcerting to see swarms of ships racing each other to anomalies; I'd suggest an instanced map for each player or team, which only has a small handful of things in it, which have to be hunted for (possibly using some sensor scan mechanic).
The things you can find might not be particularly interesting, but there should always be something to do there.
You find an uninhabited system, with a few seemingly unremarkable planets, moons, and asteroids; but it should be possible to do some kind of survey of these bodies, which may or may not turn up something of interest to your faction (like dilithium or neutronium). Maybe you could even beam down to collect some samples (environment suits may or may not be required).
If you do find something interesting while exploring, the game should remember it. These things could be used as triggers for future events. If you found dilithium, you might be asked to go back and help set up a mining facility, or to provide security for a facility that has already been built. If you had to fight someone, then maybe someone else of the same race, comes looking to settle the score. If you helped out some locals, then maybe they apply for membership to your faction and you get to host the meeting between representatives.
Work fleets into this somehow. Maybe allow us to relocate our starbases to systems we discover; maybe allow us to add a certain number of other systems to our fleet's territory (every starbase should have a patch of space it is responsible for one would think). Maybe put a console in the fleet bases that allows us to look over what's going on within the fleet's territory and see if anything needs doing (like a mission notice board). That distress call from suggestion 1 could just as easily have been picked up by the station as by a ship after all.
Maybe each fleet could have its own 'sector' that represents the fleet's area of control (either generated, or somehow 'assembled' by the fleet members tagging systems of interest that they discover).
Well, that's all I got. For those of you who read all that, thank you for your time.
What would you guys like to see from an exploration revamp?
As it turned out, that wasn't all I had; browse the thread for additional suggestions.