The Apollo 20 hoax is a faux story told in a series of YouTube videos about an American, manned lunar mission that discovered evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization on the far side of the moon.
French sculptor and video artist Thierry Speth claimed to be the perpetrator of the hoax on July 9th, 2007 on the now defunct internet bulletin board Need2Know.eu. Also, the Italy-based National Center of Ufology has declared on its website that the Apollo 20 story is a hoax. However, two months after Speth claimed responsibility, more Apollo 20 videos appeared on YouTube posted by account user moonwalker1966delta who has since changed the account name to John Moonwalker.
Despite Speth's claim, many on the internet insist the story is true.
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. Then, on May 23rd, 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 account owner of retiredafb. However, Scantanburlo never met Rutledge in person because he conducted the interview over Yahoo! Messenger.
During the interview, Rutledge said Apollo 20 was a top-secret mission launched in mid August 1976 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara, California, and conducted jointly by the United States and the former Soviet Union. He said 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. He also said they brought back artifacts to earth for study, including a hibernating, female alien.
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 Revver.com (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.
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
- William Rutledge walking on the moon
- Ruins of an alien spacecraft
- Ruins of an alien city
- The body of a hibernating female alien nicknamed on the internet as Mona Lisa
Truth behind the hoax
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 American mission that landed men on the moon. The photos show what look like a cigar-shaped object resting in a lunar crater. The hoaxer used these photos to create the image of a pock-marked alien spacecraft on the moon. The NASA photos are real. 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 (shown above) show no evidence of artificial structures.
In truth, Apollo 20 was a mission that never got off the ground—literally. It was one of three lunar missions NASA cancelled due to lack of funding along with Apollo missions 18 and 19. The last NASA lunar mission was Apollo 17, launched in 1972. The next Apollo mission was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, coordinated by the United States and the former Soviet Union in 1975. However, its mission was to remain in low-earth orbit and to dock with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, something it accomplished successfully. Some mistakenly refer to that mission as Apollo 18.