An away mission is a mission on which an away team performs tasks in locations outside of their starship or starbase. This includes missions on planet surfaces and other starships. Away missions range from exploration or First Contact to combat. The majority of these missions are launched using a ship's transporter to send the crew to their destination. When use of the transporter is impossible, shuttlecraft are used.
While during the 23rd century, it was commonplace for a ship's captain to lead away missions, in the 24th century, this was discouraged in favor of having the first officer lead the away team. This new regulation did not stop all Captains from joining away team missions, however. For example, Captain Kathryn Janeway was part of the team that stole a transwarp coil from a Borg sphere and led the rescue mission into the heart of Borg territory, personally rescuing Seven of Nine. (VOY: "Dark Frontier") Several years later, Captain Jean-Luc Picard insisted on joining the away team which found B-4, as he was "itching to try out the Argo." (Star Trek Nemesis)