As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

André Gide

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking.

John Masefield

Somewhere, something incredible
is waiting to be known.

Carl Sagan

So you want be an explorer?

Guide to Exploration

Our Milky Way galaxy is both unfathomably huge and endlessly alluring. Once you feel the call to explore it will forever run through you veins. The hours are long and lonely but the rewards can last more than a lifetime. Exploration is more a calling than an occupation yet needs to be approached with the same care and attention to detail as combat and trading. This guide will help to get you started on the road to becoming an Elite Explorer!

Chosing a ship

Just about any ship in Elite: Dangerous is suitable for exploring. That said, some ships are better suited than others. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference and budget. The humble Sidewinder is a great starter ship for budding explorers on a tight budget, along with the Zorgon Peterson Hauler. At the other end of the spectrum the Imperial Clipper and Faulcon DeLacy Anaconda both make extremely capable long range exploration vessels.

But by far the most popular exploration ship among serious explorers is the Lakon Asp Explorer. Based on the military Asp MKII this twin crew ship ticks all the right boxes for explorers.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular exploration vessels in Elite: Dangerous…

Universal Cartographics Guide to Exploration

The Lakon Asp Explorer

The Lakon Asp Explorer is the civilian version of the military model Asp Mk II (which first saw service in 2878).

Long jump range – over 30LY with A class FSD
Sounds Awesome!
Plenty of space for internal equipment
Expensive – costs over 6M Credits
Expensive to maintain
Asp Scout

The Asp Scout

The Asp Scout is Lakon Spaceway’s new mid/entry level exploration vessel. Think of it as a cut down Asp Explorer.

V Good jump range – 30 LY
Cheaper than an Asp Explorer – 3.2m cr
2 x class 4, 2 x class 3 and a class 2 internal slot
Loses 2 small class 1 weapon slots against Asp Explorer.
Diamondback Explorer

The Diamondback Explorer

The Diamondback Explorer is Lakon Spaceway’s new mid range exploration vessel. Think of it as a baby Asp!

V Good jump range – 30+LY
Cheaper than an Asp – 1.2m cr
Can carry lots of equipment
No real downsides!

The Zorgon Peterson Hauler

The Hauler is Zorgon Peterson’s low level entry in the freighter market and makes a very decent budget explorer, capable of equipping scanners and a fuel scoop.

Long jump range – over 20LY with A class FSD
Cheap to purchase – around 54,000 Credits
Cheap to maintain
Poorly armed – an easy target for pirates

The Faulcon DeLacy Sidewinder

A classic design that has been in use (in various configurations) since 2982 and makes a great short range explorer.

Medium jump range – over 17LY with A class FSD
Very cheap to buy and maintain
Excellent visibility through cockpit for taking pics
Limited module space – shield generator must be removed to fit fuel scoop and discovery scanner

The Faulcon DeLacy Cobra MKIII

The Faulcon deLacy Cobra Mk III is a classic all purpose ship and makes an excellent explorer.

Long jump range – over 25LY with A class FSD
Reasonable purchasing and maintenance costs. Around 360,000 Cr to buy.
Can comfortably fit all the exploration equipment you could want and a decent fuel scoop.
There really are no downsides to this ship as an explorer!

The Faulcon DeLacy Anaconda

The Faulcon deLacy Anaconda is a good all-rounder and quite well suited to exploration – if you can stump up the credits for it!

Huge jump range – up to 40LY+
Plenty of room for equipment
Slow maneuvering in supercruise
146 million credit price tag

Equipment

While it is perfectly acceptable to just head off into the black to see what’s out there just because it’s there, if you are going to make a living out of exploration then you are going to need to equip your vessel accordingly. And that means the following items:

High grade FSD. Preferably A, though B will suffice in most cases.
A Fuel Scoop. As good as you can afford.
At least a Basic Discovery Scanner. Preferably Intermediate, or better yet, an Advanced.
A Detailed Surface Scanner

Did you know? You can at least double the value of your exploration data by fitting a detailed surface scanner.

Besides the items listed above there are a few more things that you can do to prepare for an exploration mission. Probably the most important of these is to shed some weight. Not you, but your ship. And the best way to do this is by selecting D grade modules across the board.

D grade modules are generally the lightest and so by out fitting your ship with them you can increase your maximum jump range by quite a bit. The most common modules to equip with D rated stuff is as follows…

Life Support Module
Thrusters
Sensors
Power Plant
Power Distributor
Shield Generator

A great tool for experimenting with your ship’s module load-out can be found at EDShipyard!

Fitting D rated modules is not the only way to increase jump range though. In most cases, a long exploration trip will not require much in the use of weaponry or shields so you can probably get away with downgrading your power plant to a lower rated class (just leave enough juice to run the kettle though!)

And as you will probably be spending a lot of time in supercruise you can also do the same for your thrusters and power distributor. Downgrading these modules can save a ton of weight and further increase that all important jump range.

Where to go?

That, Commander, is entirely up to you! There may be an intriguing nebula you have your eye on, or an unusual star cluster thousands of light years away  just begging to be explored. For many pilots exploring is not just about making credits, it’s about blazing a trail into the unknown and finding things that have never been seen before. Though of course, making a little cash on the side certainly doesn’t hurt right? And don’t forget the fame and prestige of finding a record breaking stellar object!

With this in mind, it is worth remembering that not all stellar objects are worth the same amount when you return the data to Universal Cartographics. A rocky ice planet, for example, is far less valuable than a Water World.