Problems: Science: Spacecraft.

Hijack the ISS to Mars


Equip ISS with low-G thrusters, do orbital fueling to reach Mars much sooner.


We really ought to have gone to Mars by now - we've lived here for several billion years, and so far we haven't even visited the neighbours - how rude.

One of the problems with going to Mars, of course, is that it's quite a long way to go - more than a hundred times as far as the Moon. Building a ship that's capable of hosting a crew safely for many, many months is tricky.

At the same time, though, we have the ISS just floating around in Earth orbit. We know that people can survive on the ISS, fairly comfortably, for very long periods of time. The record for space endurance was set on Mir (which was smaller than the ISS), and was about 14 months.

The ISS is also pretty good - way better than regular spaceships - in terms of redundant systems. It's big enough and complex enough that the number of system failures is fairly constant, and most failures are not fatal. There have been fires, leaks and numerous breakdowns on the ISS over the years, but none (yet) has proven disastrous. In contrast, many such incidents on a small, regular spaceship would have been potentially fatal.

So, here's what we do. First, we send up a whole bunch of boosters to the ISS and bolt them on. We also bolt on a Mars lander/ascender or two, for later. Oh, and a few extra containers of food, water and oxygen. (The ISS is quite good at recycling water and air, so it won't need vast reserves of these.) All this can be done over the course of months or even years, riding out fluctuations in budgets.

Next, we fire up the boosters and point the thing at Mars. The boosters will have to be very low-thrust, long-burning rockets, because the ISS isn't designed to withstand large accelerations - but that's OK. If the thrust is applied over a few days or even weeks, it'll be fine.

Once we get to Mars, we pop the ISS into Mars orbit (again using a very gentle acceleration to do so), and then hang around for a few weeks looking at the scenery and checking out systems. When we're ready, we hop into the lander and nip down to the surface to do a bit of exploring. The crew can be large enough that a team can stay in the ISS while the other lot are out shopping.

The return mission is much the same as the outbound mission, but in reverse.

The advantage of sending the ISS is that it's a large, well-resourced and well-tested ship with proven ability to sustain life for months at a time. And, when it gets back, it can go back into Earth orbit and carry on as before.

Credits: MaxwellBuchanan of HalfBakery.


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[Inyuki], yeah, that's significant mass, but considering that Starship will be able to lift approx. 100 metric tonnes to orbit, this will look feasible with a couple of Starship launches... So, all the focus to the Starship.

So shall we start this project? It seems to be a more feasible idea than the existing manned Mars project. The important questions I think are: First of all, the owner of the ISS must be persuaded to change the function of the ISS from flying around the earth to going to Mars (the original author Maxwell Buchanan has already explained in detail about interplanetary flight, landing on Mars, and survival on Mars). Secondly, the ISS can regularly receive replenishment from the spacecraft in its orbit around the earth. If you go to Mars, you will need to bring more replenishment (for air and water, Maxwell Buchanan said it can be recycled and reused). The point is that this is a one-time use. There are multiple sets of pre-plans for all kinds of spare instruments and equipment to deal with unknown conditions.

那么我们开始做这个项目吧?看起来是比现有的载人火星项目更可行的想法。 重要的问题我觉得是: 首先,要说服ISS的拥有者,将ISS转变功能,从绕地球飞行到去火星(关于行星际飞行、登陆火星、在火星生存的问题原文作者 MaxwellBuchanan已经有很详细的说明)。 其次,在绕地球的轨道上ISS是可以定期收到飞船的补给,去火星的话补要带更多(关于空气和水,MaxwellBuchanan说可以回收再利用)。重点是这是一次性的,各种备用的仪器、设备,未知状况的处理,要有多套预案。

The mass of ISS being 419.7 metric tonnes, it would perhaps make more sense to detach some of the modules, that had been found essential and necessary for high survivability.

Just like with the idea about dolphins, it would make sense here to make a list of strategic contacts to discuss and share about this.