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Can a Video Game Shoot Down Moon-Hoax Claims? Nvidia Thinks So

We've all heard the claims: the moon landing was a hoax, done on a soundstage somewhere in Los Angeles, made to cover up the failure of the Apollo program. And anyone who buys into the hoax theory will point to a boatload of evidence — among which is a famous photo of Buzz Aldrin descending a ladder in the shadow of the lander, yet so well-lit that, some say, there must have been an artificial light source. Graphics hardware company Nvidia decided to simulate the photo using its new high-end "Maxwell" hardware and the latest Unreal Engine, which powers dozens of next-generation video games.

Its sophisticated lighting system captures not just how light hits every object in a 3-D scene, but also how that light bounces off and hits other objects. That last bit is critical: their team found that what's producing the light from the camera's direction in the contested picture isn't a bulb, but the incredibly powerful sunlight bouncing off Neil Armstrong's bright white spacesuit. Their simulation produced exactly what they saw in the photo — though moonshot deniers may remain stubbornly unconvinced.

Flashback: Apollo 11 Lunar Landing 7:25

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—Devin Coldewey