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Trying to find the name or author of a short story about astronauts who land on earth a day or two into the future (?), only to learn that their ship had already crashed and there were no survivors. They have to decide if taking flight again will only seal their fate. Twilight Zone did a similar story, "Death Ship" with Jack Klugman, but this story probably predates it.

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  • Are you certain its not the short story that the twilight zone episode is based on? Death Ship by Richard Matheson Fantastic Story Magazine, March 1953.
    – Revenant
    Nov 19, 2020 at 7:25
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    This is the Philip K. Dick story "A little something for us tempunauts". It's rather depressing (recommending anyway). Nov 19, 2020 at 17:22
  • I remember another similar story that sounds closer to the OP's request. The astronauts are trying to return to Earth and the controller freaks out because they had crashed on take-off. The resolution was not time-travel but that they had slipped into a parallel universe. There is a scene where the wife/girlfriend of one of the astronauts is saying that she was told this wasn't really "her" astronaut but she didn't care she was so happy to see him alive. It may well have been in Astounding Science Fiction or Analog between the 50s & 70s.
    – Dragonel
    Nov 19, 2020 at 17:44

1 Answer 1

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The Twilight Zone Death Ship episode was based on a 1953 short story with the same title by Richard Matheson. Are you perhaps looking for that?

I found a review online and the details match close enough. And you can read it online here thanks to @user14111!

Ross, Mason, and Mickey are sent out in space to find another planet that humans can live on. Earth is overcrowded. They are to go different planets and get specimen samples and bring them back for research. Passing over one planet Mason sees something. What is it and what does it mean?

They see a ship that looks like theirs:

Then they see it. It is a ship. The ship looks like one of theirs. It has crashed on this planet and it looks like it was a bad crash, nose first.

It was their ship, and their dead bodies are inside:

All are quiet because the dead bodies are theirs.

It appears that a time warp was the reason they were somehow in the future

Ross finally came up with an explanation, they went through a time warp and were in the future.

The group decides to leave the planet after some deliberation, and they get back into space. But they decide to come back to make sure the crashed ship is really theirs.

And it ends with:

Then, in a split second, with the knowledge, he saw Ross and he saw Carter (Mickey). As they were. And he took a short shuddering breath, a last breath until illusion would bring breath and flesh again.

"Progress," he said bitterly, and his voice was an aching whisper in the phantom ship. "The Flying Dutchman takes to the universe."

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