You know that phrase about it not being rocket science? Well, this week it IS rocket science.

Because I have been thinking about the topical subject of humans flying to Mars.

It’s topical because although it probably escaped your notice, this month we passed the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space.

At least they gave the landmark its proper due on The Sky at Night, ironically a programme that is older than space travel, having started in 1957.

Anyway, Gagarin’s flight of just 108 minutes in 1961 has always seemed special to me because I entered the world less than three months later.

For reasons that I find hard to explain, it matters to me that the whole of my life has been lived in the space age, and I have always been fascinated and thrilled by everything about it.

That’s probably down to the fact that I had just celebrated my eighth birthday when man first landed on the moon, which is just about the perfect age for something magical to make a permanent impression on you.

It’s just a shame that what we decided in 1969 was a certainty – that we would all be hopping on rockets to the moon, if not Mars – has turned out to be one of life’s disappointments.

So, with my 60th birthday fast approaching, I have started to become preoccupied with the question of whether I will live to see the next best thing after a man on the moon, which is a man on Mars.

Of course, nobody can tell me how much longer I have left, but the other part of the equation can at least be estimated.

You can visit a dozen different websites and get a dozen different answers, but if you want to know how likely things are, then the bookies are usually your… um… best bet.

So I did some research and found Ladbrokes and Coral will give you 5/1 against humans walking on Mars by 2030.

Or you could put some money on the first ‘man’ on Mars actually being a woman, which they say is more likely than not.

Don’t rush out and place your bets just yet, however, because an independent report commissioned by NASA in 2019 concluded there was no chance of anybody getting to Mars by 2033, the earliest possible date being the late 2030s.

But the good news is we could soon see history repeat itself, thanks to new manned missions to the moon, which NASA’s official website is currently saying will happen as early as 2024.

So we will all have to stick around a while longer if we are going to see history being made again, and it’s at times like these that I am reminded of that famous quote.

No, not Neil Armstrong’s, but Bob Monkhouse, who once joked: “My ambition is to live forever… So far, so good.”

Or rather, to be more precise: the late Bob Monkhouse.