Formed after the first missions to the Proxima Centauri system, the Main Star Exploration Program is the space organization that operated numerous human interstellar missions throughout the 21st century. It was formed by a collaborative effort of NASA and the ESA to encourage interstellar exploration, terraforming, and colonization. Soon after they managed many deep-space missions to stars such as Sirius, Antares, Polaris, Betelgeuse, Fomalhaut, TRAPPIST-1, 51 Pegasi, and other publicly well-known solar systems.
After creation of the Warp Drive and a handful of successful missions the Proxima Centauri system, strong support for further exploration of Proxima Centauri and other stars was difficult to muster. Thus in 2061 the Main Star Exploration Program (also known as the MSEP) was created. The program's goal was to continue the effort of sending humans to Proxima Centauri, as well as sending them to other nearby stars. Although formed by NASA and the ESA, the MSEP was a mostly independent organization lead by space enthusiasts.
Initially the purpose of the MSEP was to spread propaganda organized by the space enthusiasts who lead it. They created television advertisements, highway billboard signs, radio podcasts, interviews with new reporters and pop media figures, and school extracurriculars throughout the continents of North America and Europe. This was to encourage people of all ages and generations to support the progress of human interstellar exploration. Despite the relatively nonscientific population exposed to these messages, the campaign was highly effective. By the year 2062 the MSEP had gained the commercial and governmental rights and the financial means to organize the construction and deployment of FTL-capable spacecraft. They also provided assistance with recruiting properly-trained astronauts to fly these spacecraft.
With a new-found support by the people of Earth and the largest space agencies the world, the MSEP partnered with other private space corporations to build infrastructure, the most dominant of these including Boeing, SpaceX, and SepMin PLC. Their collaborative efforts, along with the technical know-how and scientific knowledge of NASA and the ESA, would create the Wayfarer spacecraft, a sort of successor to the IXS Enterprise in both appearance and functionality. Its increased range; durability; lifespan; storage of fuel, electricity, food, water, and other resources; and crew capacity made it the flagship of the MSEP.
The first mission of the MSEP was Sirius Primary. Its target was the Sirius binary system due to the system’s relatively close distance to Earth. This was the first major endeavor of the Wayfarer, and there were thirty astronauts and two prototype AI units on board. They disembarked on the second of November, 2065. The Sirius Prime crew arrived thirty-three days later on the fifth of December. They performed a fly-by of Sirius A and scanned for any planets that might have been orbiting the two stars. This search provided no results, so they headed back to Earth. The crew returned to Earth on January seventh, 2066, declaring Sirius Primary a success. The duration of this mission was seventy-six days, or two months and fifteen days.
The second mission was Vega Primary. Due to the mission’s drastically increased approximated duration length of about two-hundred days, preparations were difficult to arrange. With a warp drive onboard, packing enough food and water for that much time was not possible with the time, money and resources available to the MSEP and its partners. Most of the next year and a half was spent improving the warp drive to accelerate matter to speeds of 110C, or 0.30 light-years a day. At this speed the approximated duration of Vega Primary became one-hundred and seventy days, just barely within the limit of possibility. Vega Primary departed from Earth on the sixteenth of August, 2068. Upon arrival to Vega on the seventh of November, 2069, the crew once again scanned the system for planets. What they found were at least four large planets bigger than Earth. Two of these were gas giants, one of them an ice giant, and the last a large titan. Much information was taken on these new-found worlds, but due to food and water limitations the crew was forced to depart and arrive back to Earth on the fifteenth of February, 2069.Next was Vega Secondary. After the incredible discoveries of new exoplanets around Vega, a second mission to Vega was assembled to close-encounter the largest planet discovered (officially named Bond-Whipple after astronomers William Bond and John Adams Whipple who used Vega to take the first photo of another star other than Sol). With a better sense of how to prepare for a Vega mission, Vega Secondary was ready to launch in a much less amount of time than its predecessor on the twentieth of December, 2069. When it arrived the thirteenth of March, 2070, the crew noticed an extreme deviation from their predetermined trajectory. Unnervingly they burned almost a third of their fuel for corrections. Nevertheless, it was enough for a safe and wealthy fly-by of Bond-Whipple. What was discovered was a large array of massive moons unlike any of Sol. Four large, warm D-Class worlds and a hot O-Class world with a thick layer of clouds were given extensive study. After the fly-by was complete the crew headed home, returning to Earth on the tenth of June, 2070. At first a Vega Tertiary mission was planned to launch sometime in the year 2072, but public interest in the MSEP was dropping. People were found to be growing bored of manned missions being sent to the same star, and they did not see any purpose for a third mission to Vega. Thus, to keep their support strong, Vega Tertiary was cancelled. In 2008 CE a large gas giant had been discovered on the outer edge of the Fomalhaut system. Named Fomalhaut B, this planet became the target for the new Fomalhaut Primary mission. Being nearly the same distance from Earth as Vega was, making the twenty-five light-year journey was not difficult. The crew of Fomalhaut Prime left Earth on the twenty-second of June, 2073, and upon arrival of the system the crew had much better luck with their trajectory than the previous mission. Several days later they reached their closest approach of Fomalhaut B. There were no moons orbiting this planet whatsoever. After passing the planet they returned to Earth on the twenty-third of December that same year. The relatively underwhelming mission to Fomalhaut B was not a crowd-pleaser, and the MSEP continued to struggle with maintaining public morale. Under pressure, the MSEP devised a dangerous mission named Pegasus Primary. Its destination was 51 Pegasi, a Sol-like star twice the distance from Earth as Vega. They hoped to encounter its planet Bellerophon. Since they would be facing extreme high temperatures, the Wayfarer was outfitted with special heat and radiation shielding to prevent damage to the spacecraft. These upgrades took two years to fully implement into the Wayfarer, since every change had to be made in geosynchronous orbit of Earth and all the materials had to be carried up via rocket. Plus the problem of keeping the crew alive for the trip there and back required much work to solve. When Pegasus Prime was ready to disembark on the third of September, 2075, the crew prepared themselves for a long journey. Leaving warp a hundred and seventy days later, they faced their heat shield towards the 51 Pegasi and continued to do so for the rest of their voyage. When they passed Bellerophon, the crew reported it was nearly twice the size of Jupiter and completely washed over in light. The Wayfarer flew past Bellophon much closer than anticipated. Later calculations showed that if they had been ten thousand kilometers closer to Bellerophon, the entire crew would have been lost to the planet’s massive Van Allen belts. Still, the Wayfarer safely came back to Earth on the sixth of September, 2076.
With the near disaster of the 51 Pegasi mission, interest in the MSEP began to drop to an all time low, and many were seeing the organization as mere years away from dying. The organization decided to give their program one more go by visiting the Nu Phoenicis star located 49 light years away. The ship arrived in the system in 2079 and discovered a plethora of planets orbiting the star, the seventh of which was one of the most Earthlike ever to be discovered. It was named Terranova.
With the discovery of this planet as well as a couple of other terrestrial worlds, interest in the MSEP regained traction. Funds came in like never before and the organization used them to vastly improve on the Wayfarer as well as create a sister ship, the Star Jaunte. In 2082 the Wayfarer traveled to the Achird system and, to the delight of everyone on board, discovered yet another terrestrial world, not one as Earthlike as Terranova had been, but the crew realized that with the proper amount of terraforming, the planet could become Earthlike. A cooler oceanic moon was also discovered in the system. The terrestrial world was named Cassiopeia Prime while the moon was named Cowabunga.
The next star visited was Betelgeuse in 2085 by the newest ship of the MSEP fleet, the Kelvin. A few years earlier telescopic analysis had showed evidence of planets still orbiting the red supergiant and the Kelvin was sent to investigate. The crew discovered seven planetary objects, mostly scorched D-Class and S-Class worlds, although in a flyby of the seventh planet they thought they saw an artificial reflection.
And in 2093 TRAPPIST-1 was visited by the Kelvin, it was discovered that TRAPPIST-1 d was a promising world for colonization, but sadly, no life. It flybyed every planet and stayed orbiting TRAPPIST-1 d for three days, it returned to Earth on 2094.
For the next decade, the MSEP kept on exploring in the local neighborhood around Sol, discovering a couple more worlds suitable for either terraforming or outright colonization. More ships were built and they continued improving on the Warp Drive. In 2098 they were one of the major corporations invited to a large council that had been formed to attempt to create an interstellar government as many new colonies were spreading out from Sol. When the United Republic of Space Settlements was officially established in 2100, the MSEP was reorganized and became part of the URSS's official terraforming and colonization effort, merging with a couple other companies. Thus ended one of the most famous interstellar programs in early human history.