I'm looking for a Short Story that I think I read around 2010. It was an alternate history of the space race that took place earlier in history between the UK and Germany.

I think it involved WWII either not happening or being resolved without US involvement.

The UK win the race to the moon, but something goes wrong during the stay and they have to be rescued by a German launch. Discussions between astronauts at the end reveals the UK launch tech and equipment was dependent on industrial espionage from the German research.

  • In "The Number of the Beast--" by Heinlein (1980), the British Empire in one of the alternate universes has spread to Mars, (actually a full-blown Burroughs Barsoom) with rivals Germany and Russia.
    – Spencer
    Feb 6, 2021 at 1:29

1 Answer 1


This could be a short story by Stephen Baxter and Simon Bradshaw entitled "First to the Moon". It is set in an alternate history where Edward VIII did not abdicate and Lord Halifax was still Prime Minister in 1950. The "Imperial Space Programme" made use of captured Soviet rocket scientists:

the detailed work and testing had been done by Sergei Korolev and his handful of rocketry and aeronautical engineers, who had been snatched out of imploding Russia just before German and Japanese troops had met at the Urals in 1944.

In this alternate reality WWII indeed seems to have turned out differently. The Axis powers were victorious, the USA seems not to have been involved, and the only mention of Britain's role is a compromise with the Reich in 1942:

Even though the European war might have become a disastrous, unwinnable conflict... there had been no particular honour in Prime Minister Halifax's compromises with the Reich, made with the grinning Germanophile Edward VIII at his side.

The moon mission, the HMS Captain Robert Scott, indeed runs into difficulties; the pneumatic landing gear is damaged and the rocket topples to one side shortly after landing. The story concludes with the surviving mission members looking up at the sky and seeing a craft launched from Earth - a nuclear powered rocket (the "von Braun"), launched by the Nazis, which they hope will rescue them.

It was first published in Spectrum SF 6 in 2001, and anthologized with other short stories by Baxter in "The Hunters of Pangaea". It is very hard to find a copy these days though. A version used to be available from a link from Bradshaw's website, but sadly it seems that link has succumbed to bit-rot, although it is still viewable via the Wayback Machine (kudos to FuzzyBoots for suggesting this).

  • If you still have the URL, you can try plugging it into the Wayback Machine.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 6, 2021 at 0:34
  • This is really close. The name 'Marsh' leapt out straight away. The set up with a victorious Reich and the MC upset about it matches. But the details themself are a bit off and the whole thing seems longer than I remember. Could be a bad memory or could be this is a reworking of sonething older.
    – Jontia
    Feb 6, 2021 at 7:14
  • @Jontia Wow, I was sure this would be the answer - every plot point in the question fits with it. Maybe the version on Bradshaw's website is a little different from the published version. The only way to check would be to look at the copy of Spectrum SF 6 or "The Hunters of Pangaea". Feb 6, 2021 at 13:06
  • It's more that it has things I don't recall at all. The entire launch sequence for one. But there is a bit towards the end talking about rubber in the space suits that absolutely matches up. The most frustrating thing is that this doesn't give me any clue where I actually read it!
    – Jontia
    Feb 6, 2021 at 14:42

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