The Ares from Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars

Artist: Don Dixon (via MangalaWiki)
So I'm reading Red Mars because I'm grooving for some hard-scifi at the moment and I thought the Ares, the U.S. and Russian built spacecraft that carries the first colonists to Mars was worth a post. I'm fascinated by the construction of the ship:
The ship was constructed in Earth orbit by assembling empty external fuel tanks from American and Russian space shuttles, which would also serve as landing ships, thus cutting costs compared to constructing a ship entirely out of dedicated parts. This and the repetitive nature of this construction method allowed the Ares to be completed in less than two years.
An immense ship for early 21st century standards, its primary living space was composed of eight hexagons, and each hexagon composed of six connected hollow cylinders, which previously were the fuel tanks. These eight toruses, ranging from Torus A to H, were speared down the middle by a central hub shaft. At the aft end of the shaft were the fuel tanks and main propulsion system. The front end led to a section with a bubble window, which permitted views of the stars and a partial view of the ship behind.
As a whole, the ship slowly rotated around the axis of the central shaft, providing about .38 of Earth's gravity (or Martian gravity) to the toruses.
The entire ship's living space equated to about the living area of a large city hotel. Each torus was filled with different systems: dining halls, living quarters, a farm, and even a strolling garden.
Using the external fuel tanks from space shuttles to build a ship? In real life, the tanks were disposable, jettisoned by the shuttle and left the burn up as it fell back to Earth, so the idea of repurposing them to build a ship is interesting, clever, and brilliant. Unfortunately, this option is no longer available to us since the Russians have no shuttles (except never used Buron) and NASA retired all of theirs. Still, maybe the design of the Ares could still be used if the United States and/or the rest of the world ever got off its asses and decided to go to Mars and colonize it.



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