You don't have a system tag and you're posing a question that spans genres, so I assume you have freedom to choose a system. So choose a system that empowers your choices and start with awesome.
Systems like Fate Core and GUMSHOE assume competent PCs from the get-go.
Some systems let you scale your PCs to the plans you have, like GURPS. Need 400 point starting PCs? OK, that's what you start with.
Some systems just expect awesome as a baseline, like Dungeon World.
So pick a system that doesn't make a starting character a fragile, meager thing, and lead with the cool stuff!
Your plight is not uncommon. Here's what I would do:
- Pick one of those great scenarios
- Choose a system to support it - Fate for either, or Dungeon World for the fantasy. I love GURPS but I wouldn't choose it for this, I would want something faster. That's just me and my present tastes. If you want GURPS, you might choose one of the focused lines, like Dungeon Fantasy for the speed and simplicity.
- Start your scenario as close to the great idea as you can. For the Star Destroyer - take a page from Lady Blackbird and start the PCs imprisoned on the Star Destroyer with some clue that tells them that stealing it is possible.
- LET GO. Your job is to provide "potential energy" - tension in the situation, awesome waiting to happen, and just push. Get the action moving, and then get out of the way. You can't be too married to your outcome, you have to let the players run with it.
EDIT: In response to Thane's comment: Over the years, I've responded to the idea that "you can do that in any game" with System Does Matter more times than I can recall. And it does matter. It really, really does.
System informs gameplay. That's why different games feel different from one another. If your system is designed to make first level characters die a lot, but you let them pull off impossible, awesome deeds, you are working around the system instead of with it. If the system is designed to be gritty and harsh but you don't want to play in that version of reality, you will be playing despite the system, instead of because of it.
There are a number of systems that assume highly competent, dangerous, and durable starting characters ready to jump into scenarios like the question posited. Furthermore, the question starts with an assumption that systems where those things are not assumed are the only kind there are.
Perhaps I did not make this explicit enough before:
Has anyone encountered this problem in the past
Yes, thousands of groups and GMs and players have found themselves in precisely this situation. They look at the cover of a book and see huge, glorious, adventurous scenes unfolding and think they would like to play that. Only to find that by the rules of the game, they won't be playing anything that cool for years. Unless they follow the rule that says, feel free to ignore these rules.
and how has it been addressed?
It's been addressed, in part, by people throwing away the rules and designing rulesets with the intention of enabling the kind of play you are describing. There are a lot of games out there made to play this kind of game. Here are some more off the top of my head:
- Leverage / Cortex Plus
- Feng Shui
There are others that would be poor choices for this style of play (not poor choices in general! These are awesome games!):
- King Arthur Pendragon
- Adventurer, Conqueror, King
- Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st / 2nd editions