We're too spineless to make it to Mars

We will never conquer the Red Planet. Homo sapiens will flunk the next great test not because we lack the technology, nor even because we lack the money. We will fail, because – 40 years after the Moonshot – it is increasingly clear that we lack the willingness to take the necessary physical risk…

The tragedy of our age is that the lawyer-ridden western world is 100 times more phobic and more paranoid than the generation that flew to the Moon. If you doubt me, let me direct you to the new regime that Labour is creating, of Kafkaesque complexity, to govern the conditions in which an adult may be in the presence of a child. Philip Pullman, the great children’s author, has already protested. So have Anthony Horovitz, Anne Fine, Quentin Blake and Michael Morpurgo. These are some of the finest children’s authors in the world, never mind Britain. They do not lightly allow themselves to be mixed up in politics. But they simply cannot believe that if they volunteer or are invited to visit a school, to spread an interest in books and reading, they will have to sign up to a new Vetting and Barring Scheme to prove that they are not arriving on the premises with some malign intent.

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