Autonomy is an essential factor to maximize the scientific return of exploratory missions, and it increasingly motivates the development of intelligent technologies that reduce the need for remote control or human supervision. This is the case for instance in the fields of rover navigation or on-board science analysis for planet exploration. Interestingly some of the tasks involved in such endeavors are also faced and efficiently solved by biological systems in nature, e.g. the animal olfactory system is able to autonomously detect and track cues (molecules) over long distances; it can robustly cope with sparse or noisy data, and it requires low computational complexity and energy consumption. On account of such capabilities, technologies that find inspiration in the neural architecture of biological systems present intrinsic advantages that give answer to the requirements of space environments. This paper outlines recent work in the fields of bio-inspired autonomous navigation and neuromorphic chemical sensing. We envision that these two approaches can be merged to produce novel techniques for autonomous exploration in space applications.