The astronauts arrive to find the Martians to be strangely unresponsive to their presence. The one exception to this is a group of Martians in a building who greet them with a parade. Several of the Martians in the building claim to be from Earth or from other planets of the solar system, and the captain slowly realizes that the Martian gift for telepathy allows others to view the hallucinations of the insane, and that they have been placed in an insane asylum.
The Martians they have met all believed that their unusual appearance was a projected hallucination. Because the “hallucinations” are so detailed and the captain refuses to admit he is not from Earth, Mr. Xxx, a psychiatrist, declares him incurable and kills him. When the “imaginary” crew does not disappear as well, Mr. Xxx shoots and kills them.
Finally, as the “imaginary” rocket remains in existence, Mr. Xxx concludes that he too must be crazy and shoots himself. The ship of the Second Expedition is sold as scrap at a junkyard.
A 1997 edition of the book advances all the dates by 31 years from 1999 to 2030.