How NVIDIA proved the moon landing wasn't a hoax with the Unreal Engine

Contributed by
Sep 19, 2014

In the ongoing debate surrounding the authenticity of the Apollo 11 moon landing, some shots were fired from an unexpected source.

On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made history by being the first people to set foot on Earth's moon. Unless, of course, you count yourself among the number of people who think the whole televised moment was nothing more than a hoax, two men in a TV studio being filmed to further the United State's dominance in the final frontier.

For 45 years now, conspiracy theorists have come up with all kinds of "proof" that the most famous lunar event was staged, and there have been many people who have tried to disprove those theories.

The most recent attempt comes from NVIDIA, who, in an effort to promote their newest graphics cards, the GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970, utilized the Unreal 4 engine to re-create every aspect possible from the Apollo 11 moon landing as realistically as they could. The big key being that these latest graphics cards are able to re-create realistic shadows better than anything that has ever been released before.

The result? Well, according to NVIDIA, everything checks out -- Apollo 11 is the real deal. Take a look at this side-by-side and then we'll talk about the particulars:

On the left is the Unreal re-creation, on the right is the original. 

So, first of all, that's pretty neat looking, right? According to GeForce general manager Scott Herkelman  in a Fast Company article. "We talked to a lot of experts in the field to re-create what happened on the moon that day. We re-created perfectly what they made and how the reflection would look off the suits, duct tape, aluminum foil." 

But let's get to the meat of it and talk about the aspects of this iconic image that have been cast into doubt.

For example -- there's a glint that can be seen on Aldrin. Could it be the telltale sign of set lighting? Nope! According to team leader Mark Daly, the light is coming off the surface of the moon and reflected off Aldrin's bright white suit. "When the glow started moving, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, that's it,'" says Daly.

But what about the stars? Why can't we seem them? Once again, is this a set that was created but someone forgot to include the light of stars? Nah. "The reason the stars aren't visible is the exposures in the camera are set to capture the scene on the moon's surface," says Daly. "But they're there. And our demo team was able to find them by digitally changing the exposure on the shots to reveal them."

As for why the scene wasn't covered by the shroud of darkness, well ... the sun is pretty bright, it turns out, and the moon was practically built to glow. There's a reason it's so easy to pick out on a clear night.

So, yes, NVIDIA's simulation revealed a result identical to the original footage that aired on television all those years ago. And if you're wondering how that makes Mark Daly feel, he's not exactly subtle about it.

Men lost their lives as part of the Apollo project, so it bugs me when people say it was all a hoax. People risked their lives to get to the moon.

Your move, Apollo 11 deniers.

(io9 via The Mary Sue)

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