It would be nice to have some form of character progression in Astroneer, namely a light skill tree involving jobs related to the game's mechanics. Let me explain:
The way I see it, there are four quintessential jobs necessary to have a working planetary base:
Scientists are the players who constantly hunt for research pods, node outcrops, EXO supply drops, and unique plant seeds. The more the player hits the "research" button on an object, the more they scan field research and unlock EXO drops, and the more they grow crops; these should give the player experience in the science field. This experience could be used to unlock minor buffs to research speed, research gained per object, catalog research costs, and plant research pod spawn chance. Perhaps a fully-fledged scientist player activating a research station causes the station to research faster, and produce more bytes overall. Perhaps seeds they germinate have an increased likelihood of spawning a research node beneath, and perhaps it allows them the chance to harvest a seed from the crop when broken instead of none.
Engineers are the players who build, simply put. The more the player crafts objects in any of the printers, the more they launch trade shuttles, and the more they interact with chemlabs and atmo-cons and such, the more engineering experience they earn. The engineering tech tree may allow players to increase processing speeds (and power cost) or decrease power consumption (and speed) for crafting stations, increase power yield from generators of any kind, and be able to place connections at a greater distance. Perhaps the trade station rocket returns quicker for them, and any of the shredders yield slightly more scrap per object.
Explorers drive vehicles, find debris fields and zebras, place beacons, and power up gateways. They're the players who love to run around on planets, and tend to nearly suffocate returning to base because they just had to get 7 resin in one jog. Thus, they would earn experience in exploration for driving vehicles of any kind, flying rockets between planets, discovering rare debris, and obviously progressing through Astroneer's story by activating gateways and engines. Even dying would grant players a small amount of experience, with steep diminishing returns, since the other "classes" rarely get to the point where they're suffocating or falling to death. Perhaps due to this their tech tree gives an increase to movement speed, vehicle speed, and oxygen tank size (though not a lot; don't want to power creep on the Small Oxygen Tank). Perhaps they can take greater fall damage than other players. They can jump a bit higher and run a bit faster with things in their arms, and maybe they can power up gateways faster the more they've already activated. Maybe they can even see beacons from further away.
Lastly, gatherers are the standard mining players. They spend a long time underground, tethered up, with boost and wide and drill mods tacked onto their terrain tool. They hunt down the titanite veins under Glacio, and climb mountains on Sylva to get malachite. They would gain a tiny amount of experience from breaking resource nodes, with rarer nodes such as titanite and lithium awarding more. Digging, placing, and flattening terrain would grant a tiny amount of experience as well. Placing tethers, delving deeper underground, and mining harder types of stone would all award experience. Thus, their tech tree would obviously grant bonuses to digging speed both with the terrain tool and with rover-mounted drills. They would be able to place tethers further apart than normal, surf along terrain faster, and maybe even gain a slight increase to resource yield per node (and by slight I mean perhaps 1 kernel more than normal, and maybe not even 100% of the time). They would be able to use the soil centrifuge at an increased speed, or use slightly less soil when doing so, but not both. They may even be able to recover their terrain tool's resource digging progress after dying, in case of a bad accident in the mines.
I'm sure this is a bit ambitious and out-of-scope for Astroneer, but I believe having something like this would be benefitial to the game. It would encourage players in multiplayer environments to adopt certain roles, which is why four is the best number, since that's the current size of multiplayer servers. Of course, the benefits provided by the tech trees would be small, but they would add up over time to allow players to better perform certain roles as they play. Optionally, taking the final perk in a skill tree would lock the player out of picking perks in another, unless they wiped that character's experience levels somehow, further encouraging multiple characters and multiplayer diversity.