It is laughable that a parliamentary report published yesterday said that, despite India’s huge economic growth, the British people should carry on giving it foreign aid until 2015.
A year after the aid stops, the Indian Space Research Organisation, with its budget of £1.5 billion, will launch its first manned mission into space.
India will become the fourth nation, after the USSR, USA and China, capable of human space flight.
This elite does not include Britain, and probably never will — which is a scandal because Britain should have been at the forefront of exploring the frontiers of space.
When the Space Age dawned in 1957, Britain was in the same technological league as the Americans and Russians. At that time, the Chinese and Indians were undeveloped countries propped up by the Soviet Union and Britain respectively.
The British Black Knight rocket was first launched on July 7th, 1958, and by October 1959 the sixth launch had reached an altitude of 455 miles, considerably higher than that at which the International Space Station now orbits.
Black Knight was, for a while, the highest-performing rocket in the world.
Britain had a world-class launch facility at Woomera in the Australian desert, and the thunder of rocket motor tests echoed across the English Channel from the High Downs static test site on the Isle of Wight.
But successive Governments, Tory, Labour and Tory again, lacked the vision to back the potential of British engineers and scientists.
Projects were cut back, axed and cancelled again and again. As late as the mid-1960s, the official view was that satellites — now a multi-billion-pound a year business — would never amount to anything.
The British satellite launcher project was cancelled, with the remainder of the Black Arrow hardware used to launch the one all-British satellite in 1971.
And what was left of the British space programme was swallowed up in the Eurocratic mess of the European Launcher Development Organisation.
Thus, as with computers, supersonic and passenger jets and the technological leadership of the world, all created exclusively by British brains, was allowed to slip away by short-sighted Governments.
And today, China and India, countries whose people who were at peasant level when Britain first reached beyond the sky, can now send men into space. Britain no longer has that expertise.
It’s a scandalous betrayal of British brainpower by greedy and corrupt politicians, who proved themselves more interested in feathering their own nest rather than securing Britain’s future as a world leader in space exploration.