Asserting that the Apollo 11 moon landing was an elaborate fake is supposedly a favourite theme among conspiracy theorists. One of the 'problems' with the lunar landing evidence such people raise is that Neil Armstrong’s shot of Buzz Aldrin climbing down the lunar module's ladder is lit far too well. It is thought that it must have been shot using an auxiliary light source – like a film studio lamp and reflector setup.
Nvidia wanted to see if it could recreate this iconic scene using its new GeForce GTX 970 and 980 cards and the skills of its game demo design team. Using its realistic graphics rendering tech and its newest GPUs it intended to recreate Armstong's photo with the correct environment and light sources and so on to see what the scene would look like. Was the photo of Aldrin "too good" for one shot in the shadow of the lunar module?
"Thanks to Maxwell, our demo team rebuilt the scene of the moon landing in Unreal Engine 4, a game engine developed by Epic Games. They simulated how 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," explains the Nvidia Blog.
Aldrin's shot (left) and Nvidia's render
According to the green team the scene recreation is especially realistic due to Voxel-Based Global Illumination (VXGI) - a key Maxwell technology. VXGI breaks a scene into thousands of boxes to work out how light bounces around a scene in real-time. This dynamic lighting advance is rather computing intensive but is supported in hardware by Maxwell GPUs.
It was determined by Nvidia's scene modelling that, in the original photo, a lot of light was reflected by Armstrong's bright white suit. This helped illuminate Aldrin on his way down the ladder, as did reflection of sunlight from the moon's surface. Furthermore the Nvidia team explained the lack of stars in the sky in the original shot as simply down to photographic exposure. In the Nvidia real-time render the team could overexpose the scene and the stars would start to show in the sky.