Especially since Nvidia is now backing him up with science. One of the foremost claims of moon landing conspiracy theorists is that the lighting doesn’t match up in several photographs—that there’s no way Buzz Aldrin could be clearly seen in the above photograph if he was in the shadow of the Lunar Lander.
Not unless there were supplemental studio lights because it’s all a giant hoax, that is.
Confronted with this affront to American Exceptionalism, Nvidia sighed, rolled up its sleeves, and used the power of its new Maxwell graphics processor architecture and Unreal Engine 4 to reconstruct the conditions of the photograph. Their conclusion?
“The sun’s rays, coming from behind the lander, bounced off the moon’s surface, and Armstrong’s suit, to cast light on Aldrin as he stepped off the lander,” writes Nvidia.
The demo relies on one of Maxwell’s key technologies, known as Voxel-Based Global Illumination (VXGI). You might know voxels as the cube basis (basically 3D pixels) for Minecraft. Maxwell breaks scenes down into thousands of tiny voxels and then analyzes how light refracts off each—the intensity, color, et cetera.
“To recreate the moon landing, the demo team collected every detail they could. They researched the rivets on the lunar lander, identified the properties of the dust coating the moon’s surface, and measured the reflectivity of the material used in the astronauts’ space suits,” writes Nvidia.
That last bit about the space suits ended up being the key to the whole problem. Nvidia noticed a spot of light that moved along with the camera as Aldrin descended the ladder. After eliminating all other possibilities, they found that it was from Armstrong’s space suit—”They could reproduce how that light illuminated Aldrin as he stepped onto the moon’s surface at the exact moment Armstrong snapped his photo.”
Pretty damn cool. Check out the video above for a more in-depth documentary about the project.
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Hayden writes about games for PCWorld and doubles as the resident Zork enthusiast.