Fifty-one years ago today humanity took its first steps on the Moon, and now you can watch it in unprecedented detail. Footage of the historic Moon landing, Neil Armstrong's first steps on our satellite, and later Apollo missions have been enhanced to reveal stunning detail thanks to a photo and film restoration specialist and some seriously cool artificial intelligence (AI) wizardry.
(If the words Moon landings, footage, and AI are causing you to raise a skeptical eyebrow you should probably stop reading now, because we have better things to do than debunk conspiracy theories.)
Over the years, as technology has progressed, NASA has updated and enhanced many of its videos and images to reveal sharper or more detailed footage while keeping with the spirit of the original time, place, and object. The 30th-anniversary update of Voyager 1’s breathtaking "Pale Blue Dot" back in February is an excellent example.
However, sometimes citizen scientists, amateur astronomers, or even just photography enthusiasts take it upon themselves to process, edit, and enhance old footage or raw data, like the recent beautiful Comet Neowise time-lapse video that used images taken from the ISS.
Now, archive footage of Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon and taking samples during the Apollo 11 mission, plus the moment Apollo 15 touched down on the lunar surface, and one of the three rover traverses carried out to take samples by the Apollo 16 mission have been enhanced by a film restoration specialist that goes by Dutchsteammachine, who shared the videos on YouTube.
"I really wanted to provide an experience on this old footage that has not been seen before," he told Universe Today.
On July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people watched Neil Armstrong open the door of the Lunar Module Eagle, climb down the ladder, and take the first steps on the Moon by a human, uttering the immortal and oft-misquoted words: "That's one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind." Now, DreamSteamMachine has upscaled the footage from 12 frames per second (FPS) to 60 FPS, increasing resolution and restoring sharpness, so you can watch it in unprecedented detail – better even than those people tuning in in 1969 – right down to the first footprint left in the regolith.
The technology used by DutchStream Machine to enhance the footage is an open-source AI called Depth-Aware video frame Interpolation, or DAIN, for short. Motion-compensated interpolation is a video processing technique that generates frames between existing ones in a video to make it appear more smooth and compensate for any blurriness. The fastest camera in the world can shoot 10 trillion frames per second, but your average Hollywood movie is more likely to be 24 frames per second.
"People have used the same AI programs to bring old film recordings from the 1900s back to life, in high definition and color," Dutchsteammachine told Universe Today. Indeed, back in February, we shared stunning high-resolution colorized footage of 1911 New York using a similar AI technique.
Also updated is the moment the Apollo 15 lunar module landed on the Moon at Hadley Rille, making it the fourth to do so. It was the longest stay on the Moon's surface at the time, from July 30 to August 2, 1971, and included three moonwalks, the infamous "hammer-feather drop" experiment, and the first use of a rover or "moon buggy".
Also revealed in spectacular detail is the lunar rover traverse heading to Geology Station 4 carried out by Charlie Duke and John Young on the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. The 16mm footage has been upscaled from 12 FPS to 60 FPS, color-corrected, and synched to the audio to produce the clearest footage yet.
If this has given you a taste of what it may be like on the Moon, just think of the leaps in technology and footage we'll hopefully get when NASA's Artemis mission to send the first woman and next man to the Moon lands by 2024.
[H/T: Universe Today]