Posted: Thu Dec 03, 2009 8:29 pm
You have to consider the economies of scale here. When you're traveling a couple million miles, a bigger ship will work better than a smaller one. I don't see a three or four man Mars mission. I see a ship with at least a few dozen, with half a dozen or more heading down at some point or another. Infrastructure wouldn't be too terribly difficult--drop a few robots to clear, pack, and mark a runway suitable for your machine. If you really need to, you can bring them back up and drop them somewhere else to make a new strip.
It would be somewhat like Star Wars. You'd have smaller ships like the Millennium Falcon that can not only travel between planets/objects, but also land on them. Most effective ones though will be like the Star Destroyers--big massive machines carrying massive amounts of stuff, and taking it down on smaller shuttles.
Skylon or something would take people/stuff up to either build a ship or meet one. Transfer over, then go to Mars. Switch again to a "Skylon" made for Martian atmosphere and conditions, and head down.
Make sure you're trays are in the upright position, and don't forget to declare fruits and vegetables.