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Nvidia Uses Ray Tracing to Recreate Apollo 11 Moon Landing

(Image credit: Nvidia)

July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Nvidia decided to celebrate a little early by enhancing footage of the landing, which it said "could never be described as gorgeous" because of that era's technical limitations, using real-time ray tracing.

The interactive demo enables real-time exploration of the moon as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on it. That would have been possible using previous graphics technologies, but Nvidia said that "special effects rendering farms working for hours or even days on a single scene in a movie could manage this level of realism." Real-time ray tracing offers similar image quality in, well, real-time.

Nvidia published a video showcasing the new demo that features some commentary from Aldrin. You can watch it below:

This demo wasn't created as a spur of the moment celebration of a trending search term--Nvidia's team actually started working on the project five years ago. According to Nvidia, in that time the demo's creators "collected every detail they could to understand the NASA Apollo 11 landing image," because the more they knew about the scene, the more closely it could resemble the actual experience.

Nvidia described the demo as "a step into a new world, one where we’ll all be able to witness the feats of our greatest heroes, however far they venture from home, as if we were right alongside them." So while much of the focus on real-time ray tracing has gone towards how it can affect games, this is a perfectly timed example of how the graphics technology can be used for other purposes as well.

  • bigdragon
    This is neat, but it doesn't really sell me on Nvidia's RTX products. Nvidia needs to get into the game production business if they want to highlight cutting-edge, PC-centric features. They need to produce something like the first Crysis for me to see the value in RTX. No more relying upon EA and Zenimax to screw things up.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    bigdragon said:
    This is neat, but it doesn't really sell me on Nvidia's RTX products. Nvidia needs to get into the game production business if they want to highlight cutting-edge, PC-centric features. They need to produce something like the first Crysis for me to see the value in RTX. No more relying upon EA and Zenimax to screw things up.

    Nvidia decided to recreate the moon landing as a tribute to the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing.

    I think it looks incredibly detailed and realistic despite half the screen being empty space (no pun intended).
    From what I've read the stars don't show in the space landing pictures due to the incredibly short shutter speed they had to use to reduce glare.

    The animations look a bit stiff, but whose to say that wasn't how it really was with those bulky space suits.I guess Buzz Aldrin would be the person to ask about the mobility of 1969 space suits.

    Including aliens, explosions, or a gamma ray burst hitting the Earth would look visually more appealing than 2 guys walking across a powdery white desert in slowmo, but then you couldn't really call it a tribute.

    I'm not giving Nvidia an excuse for a lack of content, but you need to start somewhere.
    If anything the RTX line is a brilliant proof of concept.

    I'm sure Henry Ford got a few sly remarks from the driver/passengers of horse carriages passing by telling him to stop wasting his time.
    Henry Ford also didn't build a Huracan on his first try.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    bigdragon said:
    This is neat, but it doesn't really sell me on Nvidia's RTX products. Nvidia needs to get into the game production business
    Exactly! Anyone remember the first lunar lander game?

    McAhSoAEbhM
    That could definitely use some RTX.
    Reply
  • AllanGH
    It's good to see the RT invested in something other than games.

    I'm interested in seeing more from nVidia on similar fronts.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    AllanGH said:
    It's good to see the RT invested in something other than games.
    BTW, they first launched RTX for workstations and servers, at SIGGRAPH 2018. It's fully supported by OptiX - their photorealistic rendering API that's used by a number of high-end graphics packages.

    https://developer.nvidia.com/optix
    Reply