Telegraph – We are now so spineless, I will never see a man walk on Mars<br/> A demented scheme to vet adults who visit schools illustrates how averse the world has become to risk, argues Boris Johnson

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. And then there were the astronauts themselves, former jet fighter pilots with the right stuff exploding hormonally from every pore.

Their fellow-pilots died in fires and crashes. They used sextants and slide-rules and bits of paper to navigate space, and when the Eagle finally landed, the Eagle was within seconds of running out of fuel.

The whole thing was so touch and go that it simply wouldn’t be allowed today. The insurers wouldn’t go near it. The risk assessments would be fatal to any such venture. The rockets would remain on the launch pad, choked and smothered by the lianas of health and safety. 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. …

From this October, a vast new database will be called into being. Anyone who intends to visit a school or have contact with children more than obnce a month will have to be registered on that database. That database will not only contain criminal records. It will store any tittle-tattle, rumour or innuendo that anyone wishes to contribute. Of course, people will have the right to “contest” allegations made against them. But we all know how it works these days. The allegations may not be proved. The police may even investigate, and discover no evidence whatever. But the allegations will remain on file, as something schools and local authorities may decide to “take account of” in determining admission. …

The whole thing makes me almost weep with fury. Imagine if we could persuade Collins, Armstrong and Aldrin to come to talk to our schools about space flight. How would they feel if they had to pass the great British anti-perv test before being allowed in the classroom? They’d think we were mad, and they would be right.

thump, thump, thump