51st Exploration Corps
The '51st Exploration Corps' is a detachment of the Amarr Navy which works alongside the Ministry of Assessment, primarily concerning itself with venturing into regions of space not connected to stargates and charting them. It most notably was responsible for the exploration of Aridia and beginning the enslavement of the Ni-Kunni. The corps is currently inactive.
In the early days of the Amarr Empire's expansion into space, exploration was primarily done by non-military entities, but with the discovery of the Ealur, the Amarr Navy took the reins. The 51st Exploration Corps was one of many corps created to fill the need for exploration. Composed primarily of industrials and scientific vessels, with a light escort, the Corps ventured out from the edges of known space and headed toward the nearest stars with planets in orbit.
The Corps explored many systems in the early days, but it is most noted as the initial explorers of Aridia. In early 22000, the Empire tasked the corps with assaying the planetary, asteroid, and satellite wealth in the region. However, they found very little in the way of consequence, such that the expedition's commander, Soruma Aquiun, reported that the area was devoid of anything of worth. Regardless of the initial bleak outlook, the corps pushed on and continued to investigate.
Eventually, they discovered an inhabited planet in the Mishi system. The first ship to arrive in the area sent scouts to collect locals, whom they trained to speak the Amarr language and serve as translators. Once they had sufficiently gauged the technology of the locals and deemed them a minor threat, they established contact with a major tribe and demanded their surrender. This initial team underestimated the locals, who sacrificed the team, along with the ship's captain, to their local god.
Months later, the main body of the Corps reached the system and eradicated the offending tribe in retribution. Under the direct command of Soruma Aquiun, the pacification of the Ni-Kunni proceeded mostly bloodlessly.
The corps, led by Commodore Barius, mapped much of Impass. The corps eventually found the way further impassable, from which the region received its name.
Later, the Corps was instrumental in the exploration of Delve, Providence, and Stain, among other areas. These areas proved of less interest to the Amarr, as they grew further and further from the center of the Empire's population. In recent years, the drive to explore beyond known space has been stymied by the rise of capsuleers and tensions between the four empires.
The 51st Exploration Corps was briefly brought back to active duty when wormholes first opened, but once the threat of Sleepers became evident they were deactivated again.
Thanks to powerful telescopes, the existence of planets in orbit around a star are known prior to visitation. The Empire tends to look for planets in a specific order. If the planet's atmosphere shows signs of civilization, such as high levels of hydrocarbons or other signs of industrialization, it is considered a high priority target. Otherwise, it prioritizes systems with habitable terrestrial planets with signs of life, then systems with a large number of planets, and finally the systems closest to its borders. It rarely sees the need to investigate systems without planetary bodies.
Prior to the advent of the warp drive, the Amarr were forced to travel at no more than roughly 10% the speed of light. This kept their expansion at a slow, steady rate. It also forced their exploration corps to be well supplied, as trips could take decades to complete. In the earliest days, a member of the Exploration Corps could spend the majority of his life on one expedition. When cryonic suspension became feasible on a large scale, explorers were often placed in cryo-caskets and only awoken once they had reached their destinations.
Individual ships in the Corps would be sent to different systems, where they would begin the slow process of surveying what they found. They would then send messages back to command, which would be relayed to the Empire. In the early days, before faster-than-light communication was discovered, this led to month- or year-long delays, meaning if disaster befell the team there was little chance of rescue. Once a system had been surveyed, the crew would return to cryonic sleep and the ship would continue on to the next system in its assigned route.
Should something of interest be discovered, as was the case with the Ni-Kunni, a ship would be expected to report in and wait for orders. This often meant crews would be left with little to do for months at a time. In order to save resources, only the most essential members of the crew would remain awake; all others would return to suspension.
When a particular expedition was completed, the crew would be rotated out. By this time, decades could have passed back home, meaning the majority of the crew's family and friends had grown old and moved on. Because of this, a position in the corps was volunteer only; no free man was forced to partake in the expeditions.
With the introduction of the warp drive, the jump drive, and faster-than-light communication, exploration became a much simpler task. Trips that once took years were finished in days or even hours. This led to a reduction in importance for the exploration corps as a whole, as they needed far fewer broad skill sets and required less of a time commitment.