“Mars is Heaven!” Summary: Ray Bradbury (“The Third Expedition” Summary)

“Mars is Heaven!”, sometimes also written as “Mars is Heaven”, and also called “The Third Expedition”, is a short story by Ray Bradbury. It’s about the third Earth voyage to Mars, after the previous two ships were lost. Captain Black and his crew find that Mars is not what they were expecting. Here’s a summary of “Mars is Heaven”.

“Mars is Heaven” Summary

A space ship with sixteen occupants, including Captain John Black, approaches Mars after a difficult voyage. It lands in the middle of a grass lawn. Surrounding the rocket on all sides is a small town reminiscent of Earth.

The senior crew look out at it in surprise. The air is a bit thin, but breathable and safe for humans. The navigator, Lustig, wants to go out. Captain Black is hesitant; he points out a species of geranium that’s only been on Earth fifty years. Its presence here is unexplainable.

This is the third expedition to Mars. Hinkston, the archaeologist, suggests the two prior voyages could be responsible. Captain Black doubts it. Both ships exploded shortly after reaching Mars. Even if some of the crew survived, they couldn’t have recreated a town like this in so short a time.

Mars is Heaven SummaryThe third expedition summary Ray Bradbury
“Mars is Heaven” Summary / “The Third Expedition” Summary

Hinkston still wants to explore the town. It’s highly detailed and reminds him and Lustig of their home towns. It also reminds Captain Black of his home town in Green Bluff, Illinois but, being older, he’s more suspicious of the situation.

Captain Black decides only he, Hinkston and Lustig will leave the ship to look around. If anything happens, everyone else can get out and report back to Earth. The remaining crew have the guns ready. The three men descend.

Outside the ship, they hear familiar Earth music playing. Hinkston posits that there could have been a secret trip to Mars prior to the First World War, possibly long before that. Captain Black doubts it, but feels peaceful being back in a small town.

They head for a house. A woman comes to the door. Captain Black asks where they are and, after some confusion, she informs them they’re in Green Bluff, Illinois on Earth. Lustig suggests they aren’t on Mars at all, and could have somehow landed on Earth in the past. Calling out again to the woman, she tells them it’s 1926.

Feeling more unsettled, they head for another house. Captain Black theorizes that a secret, earlier Mars expedition successfully landed and the people got homesick. They gradually made their new home resemble Earth until everyone actually believed they were on Earth.

Before they can reach the next house, Lustig looks across the street and starts to cry. He takes off running, with Captain Black and Hinkston in pursuit. It’s his grandparents’ house. They come out and have a tearful reunion. Everyone goes in for iced tea.

They sit in the living room. Lustig’s grandparents have been here since they died. It’s a second chance and they don’t question it. Captain Black gets up to go, as they have lots more to do. He hears a commotion of voices in the distance.

He runs out into the street. The crew has exited the rocket. A crowd has gathered and everyone is reuniting with loved ones. Captain Black is angry they’ve abandoned the ship and disobeyed orders.

Captain Black’s brother, Edward, who died at twenty-six, comes up to him. He says their mom and dad are waiting at home. Hinkston and Lustig go to be with their own families. Captain Black and Ed race to the house.

“Mars is Heaven” Summary, Cont’d

Captain Black has a relaxing afternoon with his family. He feels like it’s all a dream, but his mother says to just be happy. His old bed is ready for him. He and Edward go upstairs and lie down like in the old days. He remembers Marilyn, and Edward says he can see her in the morning. They say their goodnights and Captain Black thinks.

He wonders about the unusual situation. He has a chilling thought—what if the Martians saw Earth men as invaders? Maybe they would fight in a clever way, by taking them unawares. Perhaps nothing they see is real, and telepathy is responsible. His childhood memories could be the basis for the town, and the population could be from the crew’s memories.

The rocket is abandoned and the crew members have been isolated without weapons. During the night, the Martians could easily kill everyone while they slept. Captain Black is suddenly afraid and cold.

Edward is sleeping. Captain Black gets out of bed quietly and heads for the door. Edward asks where he’s going. He claims to be thirsty. Captain Black runs for the door and screams, but he doesn’t make it.

The next morning, the Martians bring long boxes to the churchyard and place them in the freshly dug holes. The people mourn, sometimes looking like humans and sometimes like something else. The long boxes are covered with earth and everyone takes the day off.

I hope this summary of “Mars is Heaven” by Ray Bradbury was helpful.