America in Space 1956
Most space race buffs know that the US had a pretty good shot of putting Explorer 1 into orbit a year before Sputnik was launched. But due to Eisenhower's fear of the military industrial complex and complete ineptness in fighting it allowed America's chance it early space supremacy too slip away; which ironically resulted in the myth of the missile gap and the complete victory of the military industrial via that fear.
So we have Explorer 1 and the US in orbit before the Soviets. Does this ironically lead to a Soviet moon landing? Or does the, space race as we knew it never happen?