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A concept created by John von Neumann. One would design a probe to travel through space and explore other star systems, and possibly galaxies. It would be designed to include a von Neumann machine. (Of the self-replicating kind, not the old style computer kind)

As the probe headed into space, as it stubled across asteroids or barren planets which had the raw materials necessary, the probe would perform the von Neumann machine part of its functionality, and replicate some number of times. Then either all or most of the probes could head back out into space, with a larger number.

This process could enable higher-speed exploration of space, as it would not require people to travel. The replication would continue to increase the number of probes available, and thus the amount of space that could be covered.

The probes could also be designed with additional functionality into them, if desire., This functionality could allow them to not just explore, but perhaps to construct objects on a massive scale, or to terraform planets in preparation for habitation.