The Apollo 20 Controversy

On July 20th, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, became the first men to walk on the Moon. High above, Michael Collins orbited in the Command Module (CM). Four months later, Apollo 12’s Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Richard Gordon also made it to our only natural satellite. In April, 1970, the Apollo 13 mission went awry, but Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise made it back safely albeit with frozen sausages. Almost a year later, for Apollo 14, Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell landed at Fra Mauro while Stuart Roosa orbited. At the end of July, 1971, Apollo 15 set down on the lunar surface, leaving Alfred Worden circling the Moon. David Scott and James Irwin were the moonwalkers in this mission. Nine months on, John Young and Charlie Duke stepped out onto the Descarte Highlands as Ken Mattingley remained in orbit for Apollo 16. The final Moon landing, Apollo 17, in December, 1972, had Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt landing and Ronald Evans piloting the CM.

The enormous Saturn V rocket that had sent men to the Moon was also used, in a modified form to launch Skylab into earth orbit. The famous Apollo-Soyuz link-up was launched using the smaller Saturn I-B. In that historic mission, Apollo astronauts, Thomas Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance Brand docked with a Soviet Soyuz capsule containing cosmonauts, Aleksei Leonov and Valery Kubasov. Mentioning this will make sense later…

In all, only twelve men have landed on the Moon, all Americans. Or so we have been told by history and those that perpetuate history’s written form.

In April of 2007, some videos appeared on popular website, YouTube, purporting to be footage from Apollo 20, a mission that set down on the far side of the Moon in 1976! Even more astonishing than the possibility that we continued going to the Moon after 1972 was what was depicted in the footage – an apparent, derelict alien spacecraft. According to the information released by the person, who went under the username, ‘retiredafb’ (his YouTube profile can be found at, Apollo 20 launched on August 16th, 1976, from Vandenberg Air Force base in California and carried a mixed American-Soviet crew. These were Mission Commander William Rutledge, Command Module Pilot, Leona Snyder, and Lunar Module Pilot, Aleksei Leonov.

The alien ship was originally photographed in 1971, during Apollo 15 and the image can be found at

Genuine Apollo 15 photograph of 'The Ship'

Almost universally ridiculed as an elaborate hoax, this remarkable story failed to ignite interest in the mainstream media, but the YouTube links received well over a million ‘hits’.

Although sceptical, Italian journalist, Luca Scantamburlo, contacted the person who had posted these clips. He learned that ‘retiredafb’ claimed to be none other than William Rutledge himself! Now living in Rwanda, that war-torn nation in Africa, he apologised for his bad English, saying that he had not spoken it since 1990, instead speaking French, German and the native tongue of his new homeland, Kinyarwanda. He was born in Belgium in 1930 and remains an American citizen.

Rutledge said that after Apollo 17, Apollo 18 was the Apollo-Soyuz Link and Apollos 19 and 20 were flights to the lunar far side. Both the latter missions were not overseen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but by the United States Air Force (USAF). Apollo 19 ended in disaster, he said, when all telemetry from the capsule was lost inexplicably. Although the real reasons are unknown, Rutledge believed that the ship hit or was hit by a ‘quasi-satellite’, one of the many chunks of rock that orbit the Earth-Moon system or share our orbit of the Sun.

Both Apollo 19 and 20 had the same objective, to land on the far side of the Moon and explore the ‘alien wreck’ that had been photographed by Apollo 15. According to Rutledge, he and Snyder worked for Bell Labs and were contracted out to the USAF. He had also worked for Avro, the Canadian company that developed the famous Avrocar, and Chance Vought, the aircraft company that developed the ‘Flying Flapjack’ aircraft. Leonov was the first man to walk in space and was the Soviet mission commander for the Apollo-Soyuz link.

When they landed on the Moon, they saw a deserted and ruined city, ‘full of scrap’, as Rutledge put it. He and Leonov entered the derelict spaceship and also a triangular one nearby. It was estimated, he said, that the larger ship was about 1.5 milliard years old. A milliard is another way of saying a thousand million, what we generally now call a billion. I find it odd that this American citizen would use the milliard term when the more common American usage was ‘billion’. Having said that, the word derives from French and Rutledge claimed to have spoken French instead of English for years. The craft was pitted with craters and other damage. Inside, they found evidence of plant-life and ‘triangular rocks [that] emitted “tears” of a yellow liquid which has some special medical properties’.

They also found alien bodies. The remains of small creatures, about 10 cm long, were found in glass tubes that ran the length of the ship and two ‘full-size’ aliens were found. Unbelievably, he claimed that one of them, a female, was still alive and returned to Earth! Here is how he described them:

“Humanoid, female, 1.65 meter. Genitalized, haired, six fingers (we guess that mathematics are based on a dozen). Function; pilot, piloting device fixed to fingers and eyes, no clothes, we had to cut two cables connected to the nose. No nostril. Leonov unfixed the eyes device (you'll see that in the video) [No video has appeared yet – SJ]. Concretions of blood or bio liquid erupted and froze from the mouth, nose, eyes and some parts of the body. Some parts of the body were in unusual good condition, (hair) and the skin was protected by a thin transparent protection layer. As we told to mission control, condition seemed not dead not alive. We had no medical background or experience, but Leonov and I used a test, we fixed our bio equipment on the EBE, and telemetry received by surgeon (Mission Control meds) was positive. That’s another story. Some parts could be unbelievable now, I prefer tell the whole story when other videos will be online. This experience has been filmed in the LM. We found a second body, destroyed, we brought the head on board. Color of the skin was blue gray, a pastel blue. Skin had some strange details above the eyes and the front, a strap around the head, wearing no inscription. The "cockpit" was full of calligraphy and formed of long semi hexagonal tubes. She is on Earth and she is not dead…”

Scantamburlo asked how he had managed to hang on to the footage he had posted. Rutledge said that it had been rescued during the demolition of a building (presumably at Vandenberg) when a security guard had found it and passed it on to the commander of Apollo 20. He bought them from the entrepreneurial security person 15 years ago, along with some photographs and other items.

Rutledge has posted several videos on YouTube, one of the alleged launch from Vandenberg, a flyover of the alien ship before landing, another clip with more detailed shots of the craft as well as interior CM images and a clip of the ‘city’. He also posted other clips that have been removed, in particular a clip of launch preparations at Vandenberg.

There have been several problems with the clips posted by ‘retiredafb’. The clip of the launch of the rocket appears to have had the Apollo 11 audio dubbed onto it. The audio of the flyover of the alien ship seems to have come from Apollo 15 transmissions and dubbed onto the clip. The now-removed video of the launch preparation at Vandenberg is clearly a clip of a Saturn V at Kennedy Space Centre (KSC) that has been flipped i.e. it is a mirror-image. The clip of the city is a fake and appears to be a CG or painted ruin pasted onto a photograph taken by Apollo 17 (which can be found at

Comparison of genuine Apollo 17 photo and Apollo 20 fake

Having looked at the second clip of the flyover, the one that shows great detail on the surface of the alien ship, I feel that it is simply a model. The lunar surface does not look real and the spaceship looks like it is made from play-dough!

Another problem for the mission would be maintaining communication with the crew on the far side of the Moon. Scantamburlo has suggested, quite correctly, that one or more satellites would be needed in lunar orbit to relay radio signals from the lunar module to Earth.

Would a secret Saturn V launch from Vandenberg AFB be possible? Vandenberg launches more rockets every year than the Kennedy Space Centre, but a rocket capable of carrying a crew to the Moon is much larger than those that deploy satellites into Earth orbit. I cannot believe that this could have been achieved without somebody seeing it. The cities of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Lompoc are very close to the base so surely the launch of this massive vehicle would have been noticed.

UFO Data Magazine contacted Luca Scantamburlo by email. He had this to say to us:

“I am still sceptical about identity of ‘retiredafb’ and I do not know what to think about him, but I am convinced that there are some kernels of truth spread by him in this difficult case and that seems to be a real leak of information, in my opinion, in spite of it being contaminated with some fakes and contradictions; whoever William Rutledge is.

“For example, I have found an official NASA reference in which they say that the Apollo capsule of the ASTP (Apollo Soyuz Test Project) was the "Apollo 18". So, NASA uses the term ‘Apollo 18’ in one of its articles. (

“About Leonov, I have found the original NASA photos on the web, in which you can see Aleksei Leonov at the Johnson Space Center in Texas learning the Apollo instruments, during his training by NASA, before the ASTP. And Rutledge told us that the ASTP was the Apollo 18 mission.

“What it is very interesting is that on the JAXA website (, there is an interview to Alexei Leonov, taken place in Japan on October 16, 2003, in which Leonov underpins some important conditions which allowed the mission ASTP (American-Soviet joint space mission, July 1975). Among them Leonov mentions the Academy of Science, and Dr. Fletcher:

Q. I believe the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Project was the first step leading to the current International Space Station. What do you think of that idea?

A. The preceding period, from around 1972 to 1973, was a politically difficult one. We were placed in an explosive and hopeless situation, and a war could have broken out at any moment. The world had been divided into two by the Cold War. Even now, I am frightened by the fact that the world was in that desperate situation.

But having said that, it was also at this period of time that some wise men had appeared, such as Mr. Kosygin, (prime minister) of the Soviet Union, President Nixon of the United States, Dr. Keldys of the Soviet Science Academy, and Dr. Fletcher, Administrator of NASA. [...]”

“In the interview that William Rutledge granted me, he mentioned Dr. Fletcher and the Academy of Science in Ural:

12) L.S. Can you tell me anything about the Russian collaboration to "Apollo 20?”

W.R. James Chipman Fletcher for USA and Valentin Alexeiev for Russia [...]

“From the 13) answer:

[...]  the center of decision was located in the Ural, in the town of Sverdlovsk. The chief of the program was Professor Valentin Alekseiev, who became later president of the academy of science in Ural. Leonov was chosen because of his popularity in the communist leading staff, and secondary only because he was on Apollo-Soyuz.

“Another thing that is very interesting: the presumed W. Rutledge said he was a volunteer for the MOL-Gemini project (USAF), but he was not chosen (he told me he was not chosen in one of our private contacts).  He told us, in the interview, that, before retiring, he worked at the KH-11 project. I have found out later that the MOL-Gemini was also called ‘KH-10’, code name ‘Dorian’. So, as a detail, it is quite logical and correct from the point of view of space history, and from the point of view of somebody who is a test pilot involved with USAF after the MOL-Gemini (KH-10) was cancelled in 1969.

“We can say that at least something will remain in any case: the knowledge of the official NASA ‘Section 508’ (that Rutledge has indicated) [‘Section 508’ is a division of NASA that provides information for people with disabilities. They have a website at - SJ], and the attention on a strange and huge lunar anomaly, not discussed before in the press, as far as I am aware:  a cigar- shaped object that could be an ancient alien mother spaceship, even if the Apollo 19 and 20 missions had never taken place.

“So, if we think that the Apollo 20 is a carefully prepared fake, we have to recognize that there was a great attention to the historical details. But my impression, as I told you, is that this controversial case contains some kernels of truth.”

Luca has written several articles, including an interview with ‘retiredafb’, and these can be found on his website

Another website devoted to finding out the truth about Apollo 20 is

It is up to the reader to decide if ‘retiredafb’/William Rutledge is telling the truth, but I believe that this is an elaborate hoax. I dearly hope not, but something about it does not ring true for me. You decide.

© Steve Johnson 2007

(Article originally appeared in the November/December 2007 issue of UFO Data Magazine)


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Updated 16th August, 2012