Over the years, we here at Gizmodo have provided you many, many examples of scientifically backed evidence to shove in the faces of lunar landing conspiracists. But this one might be the most convincing of all: Engineers used 3D modeling to prove, once and for all, that Buzz Aldrin really moonwalked.
Using photographs, video, NASA documents, and maps of the Moon, a team from Nvidia rebuilt the entire lunar landing using the Unreal Engine. After that painstaking work was finished, they used the new GTX 980, sporting Maxwell GPU architecture to address some of the beef that non-believers have with the landing. Namely, the lighting issues. People think it was too well-lit to be real.
With a GTX 980 behind the wheel, there was enough graphical horsepower for the simulation to use Voxel-Based Global Illumination, or VXGI—basically, being able to show how the light from the sun would have behaved (even, in this case, without an atmosphere). VXGI breaks down the entire image into 3D pixels which can show how light is bouncing and reflecting off every surface.
Once the team had analyzed the way the light was playing across the scene, Nvidia’s Mark Daly saw something intriguing:
It was during this research when the demo team uncovered a big clue. A video clip that showed Aldrin descending the ladder had a bright spot of light that seemed to move every time the camera did.
"When the glow started moving, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s it,’" Daly says.
Was it an artificial light? Or – as one of NVIDIA’s senior GPU architects had suggested – was it a reflection from Armstrong’s bright white space suit? At first, Daly had dismissed the idea that Armstrong’s suit could account for some of the light illuminating Aldrin.
"You figure, ‘How much can some guy in a white suit contribute to the scene?’" Daly says.
Turns out, quite a bit. They could reproduce how that light illuminated Aldrin as he stepped onto the moon’s surface at the exact moment Armstrong snapped his photo. Inside a shot cited by Apollo 11 skeptics, Daly’s team had uncovered hidden evidence that the mission was real.
That’s right, Aldrin’s bright white suit acted as a bounce on the Moon, essentially "lighting" the scene. And that proves—YET AGAIN—that we definitely certainly and absolutely put men on the moon. [Nvidia]