I am afraid I won't see a man on Mars
We will fail, because ... we lack the willingness to take the necessary physical risk.
WE ARE NOW SO SPINELESS, I WILL NEVER SEE A MAN WALK ON MARS
No, folks, I just don't think it is going to happen. I fully intend to live well into the middle of this century, but I am afraid I won't see a man on Mars. We will never explore the Martian canals, or make our coffee with melted Martian ice, or fossick for life forms in the defunct volcanoes.
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.
To appreciate the scale of the change, you only have to look back at the machines that went to the Moon in the summer of 1969. If you go to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and see the Apollo exhibition, you have an overwhelming sense of the absurd Bacofoil fragility of those vessels, and the bravery of the men inside.
It was the crowning achievement of humanity so far – to plant a person on the face of a heavenly body once worshipped as a god. At a distance of four decades, we can see that it was made possible by an extraordinary confluence of factors. There were the rocket scientists from Nazi Germany. There was the exuberant American desire to stick it to the Soviets and show what a capitalist democracy could achieve.
This article appears in full in the Daily Telegraph here.