The year is 2150. The first steps outward have begun.
The Exploration Service has several principal goals for these missions:
There is an extensive list of things that Must Not Be Done, assembled by a similarly extensive set of committees. This list contains several logical impossibilities and at least one item of blatant corporate sponsorship. The practical rule is: don't do any damage that can't be avoided, and if you do something that draws negative publicity expect to be hung out to dry.
The Chief Scientist is in command of the mission. Most of the time, this will involve telling the Captain where the ship should go.
The Captain is in command of the ship. If the ship is endangered, he is to take any necessary means to preserve it.
These works contain something of the style and feel that I'm looking for; don't regard them as authoritative.
H. P. Lovecraft: At the Mountains of Madness (1936) http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/mm.aspx
H. Beam Piper: Omnilingual (1957) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19445
Poul Anderson: Satan's World (1969) and others
Arthur C. Clarke: Rendezvous with Rama (1972)
Jack McDevitt: The Engines of God (1994), and possibly Deepsix (2001),
Chindi (2002), and Omega (2003) (but no further into the series)