The makers of state-of-the-art video game graphics technology say they have used it to debunk those who continue to think the United States' manned moon landings were a hoax filmed on a movie set.
Nvidia, makers of top-of-the line graphics cards for PC gaming, put its Maxwell architecture on the case of explaining how the scene of Buzz Aldrin descending the ladder of Apollo 11's lunar module was lighted when it happened. Conspiracy theorists allege that, with Aldrin in the shadow of the Sun (off to the right and behind the lunar module) the only way he could be lit would be by some other auxilliary light source — like studio lighting.
Figuring this a good test for its new GM204 graphical processing unit (introduced yesterday with the GeForce GTX 980 and 970), Nvidia's demo team rebuilt the scene within Unreal Engine 4 to simulate the totality of light sources that day. Their conclusion: The sun's rays reflecting off the surface of the moon — and Neil Armstrong's white EVA suit - provided enough illumination to overcome the shadow cast by the LM.
Nvidia says the VXGI — or "voxel-based global illumination" — capabilities of its graphics architecture, show the complicated way light progressively reflects off different surfaces. That made the moon landing image a good test of its features, and also a good candidate for defense against those who insist Project Apollo was a hoax.
The demo team researched details as tiny as the rivets used on the lunar lander, the properties of the dust on the moon's surface, and the reflectivity of the material in the space suits. A big breakthrough came when they noticed in a video clip of Aldrin's descent, a bright spot of light that moved whenever he did. That and the resulting tech demonstration posits that Aldrin, in the photograph, was lit by the sun reflecting off of Armstrong's suit (with help from reflection off the surface of the moon.)
Also, that go-to claim moon hoaxers love to cite - that there are no stars in the sky above the moon in the Apollo landing photographs? Photographers have long understood they could not be visible in an exposure setting to capture an image on the brightly-lit surface of the moon. But Nvidia went ahead and demonstrated that anyway, changing the exposure on the images to reveal the stars behind.