I was never a competitive child, and became even less so. Adults tried to persuade me to drink my milk or eat my vegetables if I wanted to become big and strong like a cousin who ate anything that wasn’t nailed down.
"Don’t you want to be big and strong like him? Win races at school or be able to lift things?" they would ask. I had a simple answer. "No," I said with a conviction rare in a child who hadn’t yet grown a full mouth of teeth. I wasn’t fascinated by races or weightlifting, and was happy to leave all that for my cousin to do.
Which is why I have this message for Messrs. Bezos, Branson and Musk: Gentlemen, you have nothing to fear from me, I have no plan to race you to the moon or Mars or even the top of the Eiffel Tower. That should leave their minds at peace.
My lack of the competitive spirit is only one reason for this generous gesture. There is too the stream of ‘How can I top that?’ which such competitions give rise to.
One of the men gets to the moon in 24 hours, let’s say. The next man wants to do it in 23 hours and a half; the third will aim to do it in 22 while singing a Justin Bieber song standing on his head. Now the competition would have really begun.
Going to Mars and landing there in a straightforward way is no longer attractive. You must do it while running on a treadmill wearing a suit once used by Gregory Peck in a movie for which he won an Oscar. This will cause the next man to rush to Mars with about a thousand of his closest friends, all with a hair-do made famous by an Eastern dictator and playing tennis continuously along the way. Anything you do I can do more weirdly.
You can’t win this race. Soon after man first conquered the Everest in the traditional manner wearing the proper gear and a mask, we had someone reach the top from the more difficult side. Then someone else made it to the summit without oxygen.
I once met a man who claimed to have been the first to reach Everest wearing jeans and a green T-shirt. And so it goes on. Even as I write this I am sure there is someone planning to get to the summit while his appendix is being removed by the neighbourhood surgeon.
One has to draw the line somewhere. I don’t want to be another link in a chain that leads nowhere. So, on the whole, no moon for me, and no Mars.