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Reconstruction of the Apollo 20 insignia that can be seen in the videos.

The Apollo 20 hoax is a faux story told in a series of YouTube videos about an American crewed lunar mission that discovered evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization on the far side of the Moon.



In April 2007, videos began appearing on YouTube under the username "retiredafb" telling the extraordinary story of Apollo 20, a secret lunar mission that definitively proved the existence of intelligent, alien life on the Moon.[1] Then, on May 23, 2007, Italian ufologist Luca Scantanburlo interviewed a man who identified himself as William Rutledge, a retired American astronaut living in Rwanda. Rutledge claimed to be the commander of the Apollo 20 crew and to be the owner of the "retiredafb" account. However, Scantanburlo never met Rutledge in person because he conducted the interview over Yahoo! Messenger.[2]

Reconstruction of the American-Soviet flag as seen in the videos.

During the interview, Rutledge claimed Apollo 20 was a top-secret mission launched in mid-August 1976 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara, California, conducted jointly by the United States and the former Soviet Union. He alleged the other mission members were American Leona Snyder (an apparently fictitious person) and former Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov, the first human being to walk in space. The purported landing site of the mission was near Guyot crater, a feature near the much larger Delporte crater. Rutledge said the videos show that he and Leonov discovered the remains of an ancient lunar civilization.[3][4] He also said they brought back artifacts to Earth for study, including a hibernating, female humanoid.

YouTube videosEdit

The first Apollo 20 videos appeared on YouTube on April Fool's Day, a hint that the story was nothing more than an elaborate prank. The videos, however, were then moved to (another defunct website) also under user name retiredafb. Other videos are scattered throughout YouTube posted by several different account users, making it difficult to determine the true identity of the hoaxer. Each video continues to draw thousands of views.

Despite the realistic appearance of the videos, amateurs have easily debunked them on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet.[5]

The videos are short, each only lasting a few minutes. If viewed in their intended sequence, they tell a partial story of the faux mission, starting with astronauts boarding Apollo 20 and ending with the extraordinary "discoveries" on the Moon. They include the following images:

  • Apollo 20 flight plans and mission patches
  • The launch of Apollo 20[6]
  • William Rutledge walking on the Moon[7]
  • Ruins of an alien spacecraft[8]
  • Ruins of an alien city[9]
  • The body of a hibernating female alien nicknamed Mona Lisa by YouTube users.[10]


International Business Times writer Mary-Ann Russon has suggested the self-confessed perpetrator of the hoax is French videographer/artist Thierry Speth.[11] However, the website with Speth's admission,, no longer exists, nor does Speth's personal website. However, the page with Speth's admission is partially available when browsing internet archives.[12] Also, more videos associated with other accounts have appeared on YouTube about Apollo 20, suggesting that more than one person is keeping the hoax alive.

Truth behind the hoaxEdit

View of Guyot's crater wall running diagonally through the center of this Apollo 16 photo taken in April 1972 while in lunar orbit. Some UFO enthusiasts believe the crater wall shows evidence of an alien spacecraft.

Like many hoaxes, this story is a mixture of facts and fiction. The starting point for it are photos that NASA astronauts took in 1971 while in lunar orbit during the Apollo 15 mission, the fourth mission that landed men on the Moon. The photos show what look like a cigar-shaped object resting in a lunar crater. The hoaxer apparently used these photos to create the image of a pock-marked alien spacecraft on the Moon. The NASA photos are real.[13] However, NASA never claimed they include images of alien spacecraft. The object in question is apparently nothing more than a natural part of the lunar terrain. Apollo 16 photos of the same crater taken a year later show no evidence of artificial structures.

In truth, Apollo 20 was a mission that never flew. It was one of the three lunar missions NASA cancelled after Congress reduced its funding, including Apollo missions 18 and 19. The last crewed, lunar mission was Apollo 17, launched in 1972. The next crewed mission that used an Apollo spacecraft was Skylab 2 launched on 25 May 1973, followed by Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 (Skylab 1 was an uncrewed mission that launched the Skylab space station into earth orbit). The Skylab missions were followed by the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, coordinated by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1975.

Some of the stages for the Saturn V rockets intended for NASA's three cancelled lunar missions had already been constructed before their cancellation. According to the hoaxer's story, these were all used for the lunar landings of Apollo missions 18, 19 and 20. In reality NASA used one of these to launch Skylab into orbit in 1973. The others are on display at three American space centers: the John F. Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida; the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas; and the United States Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Apollo 20 hoax mission patchEdit

The 'recreation' mission patch suggests the crew's names as, "Rutledge - Snyder - Leonov" (William Rutledge - Leona Marietta Snyder - Alexei Leonov), with a Latin phrase from Virgilio's “Bucoliche” (IX, 50), carpent tua poma nepotes, which translates as, —your grandsons (descendants) will gather your apples.[14] The patch deviates from the actual planned, yet aborted, Apollo 20 mission NASA textile patch, with the primary crew embossed as, "Roosa - Lind - Lousma" (Stuart Roosa - Don Leslie Lind - Jack R. Lousma), which had been planned to land at Tycho crater to test a rendezvous mission with an earlier uncrewed lander.

In popular cultureEdit

The Apollo 20 hoax was discussed on Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed, a TV documentary directed by American television producer Robert Kiviat which was released on July 20, 2014 on the SyFy Channel.[15]

See alsoEdit

  • Apollo 18, a 2011 film with the premise that the Apollo 18 mission actually launched and landed on the Moon, but never returned. It is shot in found-footage style, supposedly of lost footage of the mission that was only recently discovered.


  1. ^ retiredafb – via YouTube.
  2. ^ Scantamburlo, Luca (May 2007). "An Alien Spaceship on the Moon: Interview With William Rutledge, member of the Apollo 20 Crew". Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  3. ^ Re: APOLLO 20 ALIEN SPACESHIP ON THE MOON CSM FLYOVER 8. 28 July 2007 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Re: APOLLO 20 ALIEN SPACESHIP ON THE MOON CSM FLYOVER 2. 8 July 2007 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Apollo 20 moon spacecraft Mona Lisa hoax debunked. 13 August 2014. Archived from the original on 24 May 2015 – via YouTube.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Apollo 20 Case - Apollo 20 Launch (1). 13 August 2011 – via YouTube.
  7. ^ Apollo 20 EVA1. 25 February 2008 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ Re: APOLLO 20 ALIEN SPACESHIP ON THE MOON CSM FLYOVER 8. 28 July 2007 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ Apollo 20 Case - Moon City. 13 August 2011 – via YouTube.
  10. ^ Apollo 20 - Mona Lisa. 14 December 2012 – via YouTube.
  11. ^ Mary-Ann Russon. "World UFO Day: Alien Girl and the Secret Apollo 20 Mission". International Business Times UK.
  12. ^ "New Secret Nasa Video: Ancient Alien Spaceship? on the Moon flyover before landing Apollo-20 at &". 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  13. ^ "Apollo Image Atlas".
  14. ^
  15. ^ Alan Boyle. "'Aliens on the Moon' TV Show Adds Weird UFO Twists to Apollo Tales". NBC News.