Exploration and pathfinding is a primary purpose of the HEF. Since the distance between stars is so vast, however, it requires a very special kind of ship to do it… one built for a single purpose. Capable of using a concentrated laser to boost its speed up to a sizable portion of the speed of light, decelerating sharply enough to come to rest in the end system, and with sufficient construction abilities to create new Lilis wormholes. Originally, the plan was to use some kind of Von Neumann probe for this purpose but at the time the Exalted process had not been discovered yet and sufficiently independent AI still has not been discovered to allow this method… so humanity compromised.
These purpose-built ships, the Elysium-class Pathfinders, are all dozens or hundreds of lightyears away from Earth at this point and will never be returning to Terran Federation space. Populated with smaller shuttles, the smallest ships humanity could devise capable of reopening a Lilis wormhole, the ships move between the stars, creating new wormholes and swapping out their crew with fresh crewmembers at each stop among the stars.
The Elysium-class ships were horrifically expensive – even compared to more modern, larger ships – so there were never many of them. Instead, they sent one out into every sector, exploring in every direction at once. So it was that humanity’s domain continued to grow equally in all directions… except for in one.
About a hundred a fifty years ago, contact was lost with Mistrunner, the Elysium-class ship exploring the Eridani Sector of space, and exploration in that direction stopped. For reasons that are still not publicly known, it took nearly fifty more years before the ship was officially designated as ‘missing’ rather than ‘in transit.’
Eventually, exploration had to continue in that direction… so they selected a particular captain for the prestigious assignment – Captain Miranda Black. In a newly designed Pathfinder ship, the prototype Sabre-class, she went through the furthest open Lilis warp point in the Eridani sector and resumed exploration in that direction. In the next twenty five years she scouted out thirteen prospects that automated probes had found, including finding the planet that bears her name, Miranda, located around 74-Eridani. She created four new Lilis wormhole points, and was only several years from returning through the wormhole after a successful third mission when her ship failed to check in.
Additional scouts were sent looking for her, but no sign was ever found.