How lighting was used to debunk the Apollo 11 hoax theoryFriday 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.
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