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Trying to identify a radio drama about astronauts returning to earth on a mission to the moon. One of the astronauts is musing about how the craters on the moon resemble the blast craters at atomic test sites. He speculates that perhaps there had been aliens living on the moon who blew themselves up. As they near earth, the astronauts start to see massive explosions from space and watch on in horror as the earth is destroyed in a flurry of nuclear fire, reduced to a lifeless rock covered in craters… just like the moon.

Would love to find the name of the show/episode and if it’s based on a short story or something.

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You're thinking of Rocket from Manhattan, which appeared on the Lights Out radio show.

Rocket from Manhattan is set in the future some 55 years hence; the date is 20th September in the year 2000. The place of the story is in a great rocket speeding away from the moon. The first trip to the moon has finally taken place and a triumphant airship is now returning to earth. Having lived through the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima this is a remarkable story of events that whilst unthinkable are quite imaginable. Thankfully the prophecy in this story has not come true.

Found in the TV Tropes entry for But What About the Astronauts:

Arch Oboler's sci-fi/horror anthology radio show Lights Out once featured a story called "Rocket From Manhattan," in which astronauts on the first trip to the moon return to Earth to find a nuclear war had taken place in their absence. The bleak, crater-filled landscape on Earth reminds them eerily of the Moon itself.

As far as I can tell, Arch Oboler did not base it off of a short story, but he did write Night of the Auk based off of the radio play.

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  • Amazing! That’s the one. I never would have guessed that title, I don’t think Manhattan features in the story apart from maybe mentions of the Manhattan Project. Thanks for answering!
    – Vik
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 14:00

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