As obvious as it sounds, it just occured to me that a ton of knowledge about neighbouring planetary systems will be gained through interferometry way before we travel there.
There’s still a fairly large technological gap to overcome, so that might mean something not before 2150 say. But at that point, we may well be able to watch a continuous broadcast of what’s happening there, just like current satellites manage to do with respect to earth.
A live feed of the surface of Gliese 581 g, now that would be fun to watch if it’s populated at all. In fact, if intelligent forms of life are occuring reasonably often within planetary systems, there might be aliens watching us right now from far far away, and waiting for us to finally get the technology right and engage a discussion… (Albeit a discussion with many years of delay before an answer, though the 41 years for Gliese aliens would be short indeed by astronomical standards.)
That theme probably has occured often in the sci-fi litterature already, a genre which I am ignorant of. If you happen to know a good book on the topic feel free to mention it, thanks.