Space Race without WWII?

What countries would be involved in a space race assuming no WWII?

I know such a POD changes everything, but let's speculate that the Nazis either don't take power in Germany or it's a short dictatorship that fizzles out. There are conflicts, but not a total war involving the world's powers. By the 60s, politically, the world is full of cold wars and uneasy peace, but the thought of a second Great War is not taken seriously.

How developed was rocket technology before WWII? Were there any civilian attempts to reach space at the time?

What's the earliest we could have the Space Race milestones? First satellite, first man in space, first woman in space, first man on the moon, first space station, etc.

What countries would participate in such a race? I'm imagining Germany, the US, the USSR, and the UK.

How would technology develop in such a world?
How would technology develop in such a world?

No WW2 means a much more commercial attitude in the late thirties. Germans had interest in rocketry. American Robert Goddard lived until 1945. French aviator and entrepreneur Robert Esnault-Peltrie cashed in on airplane patent royalties after WW1 and he had ideas in rocketry. He lived until 1957. Germany would develop transistors and tape recording but did not market them in the OTL thirties. I can see commercially-oriented development.
Don’t forget that the aerospace industries of Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland are left intact ITTL. That’s a lot of talent and capital that IOTL was either destroyed, murdered, or wasted building MiG clones.

I see Britain as a major player—long-range rockets fit neatly into the area bombing mentality that eventually dominated Bomber Command. Japan too, with its far-flung possessions in the Pacific, would benefit from reconnaissance satellites, and might be an early adopter of that tech.

For a lot of the other players, development will be on hold until either the atomic bomb or better computers are developed. As IOTL, rockets as weapons aren’t worth much unless they can either drop a very big bomb or put it exactly where it’s needed—why the US took its sweet time with ballistic missiles.

So the real question to ask is, who builds the TTL Manhattan Project, and when?

I’m actually partial to France for that honor in a no-WWII scenario. Their territories in Africa and those of Belgium were the top uranium suppliers IOTL, so the development of fission power plants (to reduce dependence on coal mines uncomfortably close to the border with the Boche) there seems plausible. Plutonium produced as a byproduct can be weaponized. Britain is another candidate, for the aforementioned Area Bombing mentality—“no city on Earth is worth the bones of one British grenadier.”

Once the atomic bomb is developed, every first- and second-rate power will want some and the rockets to deploy them. That will lead to a lot more space-capable Nations than IOTL, with lots of spy satellites, assuming that the OTL Freedom of Space doctrine still emerges and we don’t see routine ASAT launches against every low-orbit satellite.

Manned space programs will be rarer, but as prestige projects they’ll still be more common than IOTL. And again, without the capital and human losses of WWII, many more countries will be able to afford them. Maybe not NASA-scale, but such a world would be full of ISRO-level efforts.

As such, there won’t be a single bipolar Space Race, but rather something more like pre-war aeronautical and polar exploration one-Upmanship, with each relevant country maintaining a program to ‘show the flag.’
As such, there won’t be a single bipolar Space Race, but rather something more like pre-war aeronautical and polar exploration one-Upmanship, with each relevant country maintaining a program to ‘show the flag.’
I agree that rockets and eventually space would be an extension of aeronautics. It would be done with civilian-military cooperation.

As for the Manhattan project, I think there would be differences. No WW2 implies anti-Semitism will be much less of an issue, if at all. Would Einstein come to the US in 1933? Enrico Fermi, father of the Bomb, left Italy in 1938 to protect his Jewish wife from the racism. Would he leave at all or come to the US? Would the US be on par or behind in the atomic race? Would such research be classified information for much longer?