While the human race has been busy studying with problems it’s solar system for several decades now. We have not yet started to explore with problems our distant star neighborhood. The reasons for lack of such exploration are two mostly.
The first one is lack of technology. But before the year 1970 the chance of exploring space with something else then just telescopes was limited at best. But technology moves forward. By the year 1970 spacecrafts where first advanced enough to go into the solar system. Rather then just orbiting the Earth or being in geosynchronous orbit. The first probes to go out into the solar system where the Pioneer spacecrafts. Then Voyager spacecrafts did go out into the solar system and are now leaving it. Today the newest spacecraft to be on it’s way out of the solar system is the New Horizons spacecraft. But it is going to go by Pluto in the year 2015 and give up new information about that planet. Along with high resolution images of it and it’s moons.
The second problem is distance. But past and current technology has now allowed us to send spacecraft out of our solar system without it taking years. Long running projects also have money issue, people issue. Along with technological issues on it’s own. Today it takes the spacecraft about 15 years to reach the edge of our solar system. If no other flyby are made on the way. Communication is also problem. The more distance between spacecrafts and Earth the longer time communication takes. For instance, New Horizons round trip communication today takes around 6 hours to complete (3 hours each way). When it reaches Pluto. That times has gone up to 12 hours both ways (6 hours each way). There are also no spacecraft to handle communications between points in our solar system. So all communication has to go directly between Earth and the spacecraft in question. This makes communication often impossible or hard at best in some cases. NASA deep Space Network does good job at keeping contact with those spacecrafts that are out there today.
But for the future. It is my opinion that long term plan needs to be put into action to secure communications inside the solar system with future space mission. Regardless if they are inside the solar system or outside it. But one thing is sure. In the future, it is going to be necessary for the human race to send spacecrafts outside the solar system to make discoveries. What we might find may change the human race forever. It is simply not enough to explore space with telescopes today. Unmanned spacecrafts needs to be sent out there to explore while humans cannot do so directly. We need to know what is out there. Sooner being better then later for the human race.