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How lighting was used to debunk the Apollo 11 hoax theory

How lighting was used to debunk the Apollo 11 hoax theory

Friday 19 July 2019

50 years on from the Apollo 11 mission which saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first-ever humans to set foot on the moon, we look at how lighting played a significant role in debunking the theory that the moon landing was faked.

Ever since the moon landing on 20th July 1969, conspiracy theorists have believed that it was faked and was a ruse by NASA and the American government. The iconic photograph of Aldrin descending the ladder of the lunar module was used as proof. This was because as the sun was being hidden behind the spacecraft, conspiracists believed that Aldrin appeared to be too brightly illuminated for the picture to be real and that the photograph had used artificial spotlights.

However back in 2014 lighting was used to debunk this theory and prove that the Apollo 11 moon landing mission was real. Computer graphics chipmaker Nvidia used their graphic processing unit which simulates real-time properties of light to create a 3D virtual lighting model of the Apollo 11 landing site. Senior director of content development at Nvidia, Mark Daly, explained that their motivation behind the project was that they ‘wanted to take on the challenge of showing the single light source of the sun was actually able to light Buzz Aldrin even though he’s in the shadows’.

The digital reconstruction was built by using satellite imagery of the Apollo 11 landing site as well as publicly accessible photographs and videos from the mission. For complete accuracy, the team measured the reflective properties of all items at the landing site from the fabric of spacesuits to moon dust. Once the reconstruction was built, the sole light source of the sun and its integrated reflection was added. But the engineers at Nvidia found that images didn’t match up which in fact proved that the conspiracists were right and an artificial light source was used to light up Aldrin.

However, when looking through old video footage of the moonwalk, a clip was found shot from the other side of the ladder which had a huge glowing bright light. Analysis of the video showed that this light was actually Neil Armstrong himself as the bright white spacesuit he was wearing was reflecting all sunlight off him and back towards Buzz Aldrin.

The spacesuits worn on the Apollo 11 mission were effectively mirrors which reflected 85% of the light that struck them. The Nvidia team adjusted their digital reconstruction taking into consideration the reflection of Armstrong’s spacesuit and the virtual image was practically identical to the real photo. This proved that Aldrin could appear brightly illuminated despite being in the shadow of the spacecraft and debunked the conspiracist theory of the moon landing being fake.


  1. Lighting Simulation Offers More Proof of Moon Landing.

  2. How Our Maxwell GPUs Debunked the Apollo 11 Conspiracy Theory.


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  • Duncan Lunan
    24 Jul 2019

    Spot on! Other Side Books has just published my book "From the Moon to the Stars" for the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. It ends with an essay I was asked to write in 2001, in which I systematically refuted every claim in the 'Conspiracy Theory' programme which alleged the landing had been faked. This update is very useful and will be made use of! Many thanks, Duncan Lunan.

  • robert Pulham
    25 Jul 2019

    When the astronauts did shallow leaping along the lunar surface the shape of the arcs described by their feet above the surface would have conformed to a gravity strength of one sixth of "g". No manipulation of the movie camera could disguise that shape.

  • Clive Raymond
    29 Jul 2019

    This is the sort of thing that I like to post on LinkedIn. I remember posting an article off the BBC about forensic photographic analysis in relation to a fake photo of Lee Harvey Oswald where the shadow was wrong.

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