I loved the feature of collecting meteorites in civilization II, they were like candy but they were never around for long, I always frowned when I couldn't get the last one even if they had such minor bonuses. I believe that there should be re-spawn meteorite system where in the fog of war the meteorites can regenerate thus making exploration and survey monuments more worth a players time. There would also have to be a limit parameter so that you don't have meteorite spam blocking you from combat and they should generally be out of the way and not annoy the heck out of a player.
Then there are flying comets that have a 0.001% chance of striking your ship, and if your ship survives the impact you get additional boast that is larger then what meteorites has to offer, credits, or even rare artifacts that I will discuss more in detail. This way luck in this game can play a role and be a race bonus, or stat and there is a risk of damage or even death when hyper driving out in the deep dark void.
Space junk would be the exact same thing as meteorites, except they are a considered pollution in the galaxy. Every player has a responsibility to make sure they clean up their own messes, otherwise other civilizations will do it for them and they get rewarded whatever advantage the other player has... including technology in extreme cases. The rule for ships to be able to harness the energy of space junk from other players must have a survey module/galactic wonder. Imagine what treats would lie in the dread lords trash pile or the Arnors trash pile... Your garbage is a treasure to lesser aliens.
Note: there should be a destructible automated junk collection ships a player can deploy so you don't have to micromanage garbage picking, and perhaps upgrades that lowers your space pollution. I want this feature to improve the game, not to be a chore that deeply annoys the player... I assure you that an automated ship would be good enough to make space feel like a living environment rather then just black hex/squares.
Don't forget, if you are destroying ships beyond your own technological level, there is a chance that the destroyed ships will leave husk out for you to collect, that can give you technology, artifacts the ship has collected and also maybe give you some sweet cash/credits or whatever the currency is.
Then here comes the artifacts, that once a ship gains an artifact, there will be a star hovering over the ship, and whichever planet the ship arrives at automatically applies a huge planetary bonus to whatever planet is has been delivered to. Then the planet gets a star icon hovering out of the way where it keeps tracks of how much artifacts are tied to that one planet.
Maybe there can even be traveling visible meteor fields that offer high risk/reward to the explorer, but they generally always relocating to adjacent tiles in a straight line. They can even have random plasma storms in random locations for a number of turns, and when your ship runs into them their sensors are useless till they leave the field. Nobody else can see your ship, perfect for tactical combat as you can hide a transports and stuff for any unsuspecting targets in those plasma field, but generally they handicap all ships defenses and weapons because it is a plasma storm.
If you support this idea please comment, these minor but engaging ideas may make this game more interesting then civilizations 5 Brave New World's system and a MAJOR improvement to the Galactic Civilization series. This will revolutionize space exploration in game play as you all know how boring and bland space combat is without the elements that makes real space interesting. I appreciated further elaboration on this idea, it would be so helpful if you could tell me what kind of space stations, space mines or whatever the heck would create all this space trash.
Thank you for your time and consideration.