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Hijack the ISS to Mars

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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.

MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 21 2018

Put the Hubble on the ISS Put_20The_20Hubble_20On_20The_20ISS
[theircompetitor, Jan 21 2018]

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       Like it, maybe the powers that be would have thought of it too but for politics on Earth, tricky because I guess it’s owned by different governments (?) bit like getting UN to move on something.. wonder what NASA gets left with if they do ISS brexit and divorce from the other owners. Maybe a punctured space suit to fly to mars in and a hefty ‘separation bill’.
DDRopDeadly, Jan 21 2018
  

       Or maybe they are allowed the whole space station just so long as they stick the Russian flag and a statue of Putin into mars
DDRopDeadly, Jan 21 2018
  

       What’s the ROI? That’s what the potential investors will be asking.
Ian Tindale, Jan 21 2018
  

       That's an easy one. It's the Republic of Ireland. Next?
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 21 2018
  

       They get that?   

       Fair enough.
Ian Tindale, Jan 21 2018
  

       The crew of the ISS discuss this option in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves after the Earth blows up one day. They decide not to bother in the end.
EnochLives, Jan 21 2018
  

       // so far we haven't even visited the neighbours - how rude //   

       Consider the scenario where you are a car owner and driver, and a resident of Towcester. With very little effort, in a few minutes you can be in Milton Keynes.   

       The journey is, in itself, trivial. The overarching question would be "Why ?"   

       Why would anyone, even someone with serious mental health issues, go to Milton Keynes ?   

       Similarly, Mars is a cold, bleak, desolate wasteland with no atmosphere, no intelligent life, and nothing to recommend it as a travel destination.   

       Oh, no, sorry, that's Milton Keynes. The views at sunrise and sunset from the top of Olympus Mons on Mars are definitely worth seeing.
8th of 7, Jan 21 2018
  

       //Neal Stephenson's Seveneves // Damn damn damn. Every time I have a brilliant idea, some bastard jumps in an pre-invents it.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 21 2018
  

       Tell me in more detail about the escape from Mars surface bit. I'm curious as to how that works.
RayfordSteele, Jan 21 2018
  

       They'd certainly be well tanned, inside and out.
FlyingToaster, Jan 21 2018
  

       //detail about the escape from Mars surface bit.// It works by using an upulator.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 22 2018
  

       Just noticed the relevant word ‘hijack’ which invalidates my earlier comments about international cooperation or lack thereof. This could be sold as a project to Al-kaida or better yet ISS- IS, who could have the necessary hijacking experience. But instead of crashing into Mars encourage them to try for a caliphate there
DDRopDeadly, Jan 22 2018
  

       What a good idea.   

       We question if a very public multinational project lasting many years and totally reliant on cooperation and informed consent can actually be described as "hijacking" ...
8th of 7, Jan 22 2018
  

       How many orbits of other satellites will be intersected by this gradual movement of the ISS, as it leaves Earth? And what of the fact that Earth micro-organisms are likely already at Mars (courtesy of events like the Chicxulub impact)?
Vernon, Jan 22 2018
  

       //How many orbits of other satellites will be intersected by this gradual movement of the ISS, as it leaves Earth? //   

       In total, probably about none.   

       //Earth micro-organisms are likely already at Mars// Yes, agreed. If we do discover past or present life on Mars, I think it's likeliest to share a common ancestor with terrestrial life. Of course, the question will then become whether life started on Mars and hopped to Earth, or vice versa.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jan 22 2018
  

       Or, it could have developed on the asteroid belt, before it became the asteroid belt (or about the same time).
Ian Tindale, Jan 22 2018
  

       Hmm... could we convince Isis that we have indeed found the perfect planet for them to rule, and ship as many as will fit inside a mock rocket? It doesn't really have to fly, just look convincing and be equipped with enough C4 to blow them straight to paradise.
RayfordSteele, Jan 24 2018
  
      
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