... 'The Third Expedition'
... this past week I got caught up in science fiction stories that I have not visited since my boyhood! I am a great fan of the writings of Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein. And so it was with enthusiasm that, with small excuse, I found myself lost in the process of illustrating Bradbury's 6th chapter from The Martian Chronicles - "Mars Is Heaven" (Ironically, as I write this I stop to realize for the first time that the chapter is actually named "The Third Expedition" and the tendency to call it by it's more poetic title comes from the adaption into a radio play!)
The book and it's chapters were written in the late 1940's during a golden age of science fiction when lack of hard data about our solar system still allowed fantasies of alien races living on our close neighbor planets.
The story in short: after the first two manned expeditions to Mars disappear without a trace, a third large and heavily armed attempt is made. The native Martians, determined to derail the cataclysmic contact of the two vastly different cultures, employ their powerful telepathic powers as their only weapon. The Earthmen, in spite of their training and military discipline, are overwhelmed by hallucinations telepathically induced by the Martians. Tapped from their deepest emotions and memories, the Third Expedition is convinced they have landed in the midst of a small Ohio town. From inside their minds the dream is complete in every detail. They are 'reunited' with long lost and loved dead relatives and friends. Emotionally overwhelmed they accept the explanation that Mars is really Heaven. Not until it is too late do they realize the deadly truth!