The plan envisages a three-person crew journeying to Mars aboard a small two-part craft.
The craft would rotate to generate artificial gravity and use a heat shield to protect itself against solar flares.
The crew would then return to Martian orbit in a pre-sent craft fuelled using ice from beneath the planet's surface.
The concept, developed in conjunction with the BBC, is intended to spark further debate about the technical obstacles and risks that would have to be overcome in order to put humans on Mars.
"Every part of this mission scenario has been demonstrated one way or the other, including the in situ propellant production on the surface of Mars," said Prof Tom Pike, who led the Imperial design team.