Space Exploration

NVIDIA: The Fox and the Hen House

NVIDIA's attempt to justify additional lighting used during creation of the Apollo 11 imagery
by Marcus Allen


See also – NVIDIA: Mission Failure

NVIDIA is a US technology company specialising in the manufacture of computer graphics processing units (GPU). From August 25 through to September 2 the company attempted to lure Marcus Allen, critic of the Apollo photographic record into their parlour. Marcus Allen wishes for this to be published as a warning to others who might be on the receiving end of a similar invitation.

On 21 August 2014 I received an email from a representative of NVIDIA – having seen my presentation on the Apollo photographic record at Exopolitics at the University of Huddersfield in September 2013. This person expressed interest in 'Searching for different insights and theories on the moon landings’. I was told that NVIDIA had ‘some technology that would be very interesting to look at while analysing moon landing photographs, so we would be very interested in your viewpoint and commentary'. I was asked if I would be interested in talking about and sharing my ideas with them.

Since they had already seen my presentation and therefore heard my ideas on the subject, it seemed that they wanted my comments on their technology. Which I thought odd.

I am not really a computer geek, and even if I wasn’t fully aware as to exactly what extent NVIDIA occupied the market, I did know that this company is associated with the restoration of Apollo material for NASA.

I wondered why they would want to open a dialogue with someone so critical of the Apollo lunar surface photography. So I sent them an email indicating a willingness to discuss the anomalies and inconsistencies within the Apollo record. While I waited for their reply, I researched NVIDIA on the web.

What I learned supplemented what NVIDIA chose to tell me about themselves in their follow-up email, ‘NVIDIA develops massively parallel chips used in the worlds [sic] top supercomputers, including the Los Alamos Labs Titan supercomputer. We are worlds [sic] leader in developing discrete graphics chips. Odd [sic] are, you have our technology in your computer.' Good at computing, not so good at writing emails, I noted.

Seeing that the National Laboratory at Los Alamos was a NVIDIA client along with companies working for NASA made it even stranger that they wanted to open a dialogue with a critic of Apollo. I was also sent a three-year non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to sign, without which they wouldn’t discuss the technology mentioned in their first email.

I thought that to be unusual under the circumstances, but then realised it was quite reasonable for a company to ask for an NDA to be signed if a visitor is to be allowed to see proprietary technology or technology in development, and so I duly prepared it for sending. However a further thought, or rather four thoughts struck me, and I decided to hold off returning it until I had the answers to some relevant questions:

1. What are your aims in regard to the Apollo Controversy?
2. Does whatever it is you are doing in this regard, involve new technology?
3. Have you approached other investigators?
4. Why have you selected me?

The answers I got back were most revealing – I was told that NVIDIA completely understood why I was asking these questions. They flattered me over my camera presence and my presenting skills, they thought my ideas ‘interesting and credible’. They had approached another investigator in the US.

The company wanted to ‘branch out further than that’. They wanted me to comment on their new technology and most interestingly of all:

The aim, is difficult to completely explain, without talking about the technology. We want to show you the technology and talk about the anomalies in the photographs. We also do want to see/hear from both side of the Apollo controversy, without siding with either mindset.

Nvidia crop circle

I found this noble, unbiased attitude rather difficult to swallow, given some of their high profile clients. This was also a company which, in December 2013, had appropriated both the Crop Circle and the UFO phenomenon for an ‘out of this world’ advertising project. The crop circle had made the international media and the flames were fanned by a video which appeared on YouTube.

Two people were seen being drawn by a strange green light (not dissimilar to that of the NVIDIA Logo) to 'discover’ this crop circle while thinking they were looking at a UFO landing site.


A week after the event, when the crop circle community had fully indulged all their wildest fantasies, NVIDIA announced on their blog that it had commissioned a team to make this crop circle.

In the upcoming ‘discussion’ that they were now proposing about Apollo, I thought I could see traces of this same set-up. I’d also noticed that all my emails were being copied to a NVIDIA communications manager with a background in video production. Although this company was apparently quite comfortable playing with the ideas of illusion and notions of ‘real’ and ‘false’ while associating ‘out there’ subjects with the promotion of its own technology, I still gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried again.

I told them that the NDA was ready to go but I asked for clarification of their production’s aims without giving away the technology; to advise what my part would be in the production; to confirm whether their role was simply that of a detached observer, or whether they were seeking a specific outcome.

It turned out that the aim was for their ‘technology to speak for itself’. But only after they had heard both sides of the story. They wanted me to:

Explain to us your robust and creditable arguments as to why you truly believe we didn't land on the moon. Then we would like to show you what our technology is. We would love to hear your reaction and let us know what you think. We are in a sense playing 'investigator', and to make any story interesting, we need to have both parties share their opinion/arguments to keep the audience on their toes and form their own opinion, to then be able to drop the NVIDIA technology on them.

From which answer I realised that we were probably not singing from the same song sheet. There is a vast difference between the ‘We didn’t land on the Moon’ school of thought and ‘the Apollo record is full of anomalies and inconsistencies’ school of thought. Given NVIDIA’s role in computer gaming, ‘we are in a sense playing ‘investigator’ made things look not entirely unbiased. The word ‘investigator’ generally implied the desire for a specific outcome – not a neutral position.

They also asked me to now send them the NDA – if I felt comfortable. I didn’t entirely, so once again I thought it worth a try at getting some more clarification into this discussion before committing myself. I told NVIDIA that my analysis of the Apollo record was from the point of view of a photographer and hadn’t required any NVIDIA technology. I asked them to clarify who would be batting for the ‘other side’.

When they replied, this last request was completely ignored, while at the same time they asked me if I had any ‘specific concerns’! I was told that they believed I was ‘the exact right person’ for the job, precisely because I had used no technology to come to my conclusions. Again they asked ‘how could they help me feel more comfortable with this project?'

As I contemplated this response I noticed a very faint smell of rotting fish wafting in the breeze. I shut the window, thinking it had come from outside, and applied myself once more to trying to get some sense out of these ever more vacuous replies. If their quest was truly for a balanced program, and point taken about protecting technology, it certainly didn’t require an NDA to tell me the name of the person representing the other side. I sent a second request for that information and I got a second rebuff. They wouldn’t tell me anything about ‘what exactly they were doing/planning’ unless I signed their NDA. Which they assured me, did not mean I had to go through with the project.

Despite the window being closed the smell was stronger now, and I realised that it was coming from inside the room after all. I filled in the gaps in their email for myself: as far as I could tell, what the NDA did mean was that I would be restricted for three years from 2014-2017 from talking about anything to do with this NVIDIA project. If this NVIDIA project was as stated, about the Apollo photographic record, then in theory I couldn’t talk about that either, so basically whether I participated in their project or not, I would be effectively ‘shut up’.

I wrote them a rather long ‘mission statement’ email (see Notes below). By now it was August 30 and Labor Day in America was approaching so I didn’t expect a speedy reply, if any.

Their September 2 reply was revealing in its bad grammar and the fact that they seemed riled by my previous send. I was once again told that ‘signing the NDA doesn't mean you are signing to be a part of this project and going on camera. If you aren't interested in being a part of this, that is alright. We just need to know.’
And then there was this:

…we just need a heads up, so we can move into another direction with someone else. We slowly are getting into a time crunch. I understand your concerns, that is the only reason why I am asking you to sign the NDA, so we can resolve any other concerns that you may have. [emphasis added]

To my mind this seemed like an attempt to get me worried that someone else might bask in their limelight. I decided that enough was enough and sent them a polite but final reply.

…Following three requests to date, you still cannot tell me who is representing ‘the other side' without first signing your three-year non-disclosure agreement (NDA). While not addressing my concerns already expressed to you, you expect me to sign your NDA in order to resolve any other concerns I might have.

Considering that your CUDA technology is used on NASA projects including Apollo restorations, and in the light of the fact that you are clearly unwilling to inform me 1) with whom I would be speaking, and 2) what precisely is to be discussed, I cannot possibly enter into such an agreement.

It had by now become quite obvious to me at least, I should not have to sign an NDA just to be able to discuss Apollo with them or their guests. If this was an attempt to discredit the Apollo investigation into the serious anomalies in the record, it has failed.

After all, even if these efforts are entirely dedicated to some promotional campaign, with the final cut of any program being in the hands of the commissioner, asking a technology company with connections to NASA projects to maintain an unbiased view towards Apollo critics could be rather like asking the fox to look after the hen house.

Marcus Allen

Aulis Online, September 2014

See alsoNVIDIA: Mission Failure

‘Mission statement’ email

In your stated desire to use NVIDIA’s technology to ‘resolve’ the anomalies and inconsistencies in the Apollo photographic record, you seem to have lost sight of the real issues over, as you call it ‘Whether we did or did not land on the moon’.

However, this is a question that cannot be resolved simply by addressing the Apollo photographic record. Especially since, as Michael Malin stated in the 1980s, ‘in a hierarchy of probative value, photographs and sound lie at the bottom, because they both are a recording of an ephemeral event, subject to manipulation after the fact’.

For those like me who criticise the Apollo record, it has always been evident that the many problems with the Apollo imagery are strongly indicative of other issues elsewhere within the entire Apollo Space Project.

If NVIDIA really wishes to resolve the controversy of whether the US did or did not safely land astronauts on the lunar surface and then return them home again, in any useful way, rather than using me (or any other photographer) in a limited debate you would be better off making a completely different film. One that addresses the roots of the problems relative to manned spaceflight. See NASA’s own documentation on the Constellation Program, the article by Phil Kouts PhD in the current edition of Nexus magazine [Aug-Sept 2014] and Aulis Online all of which should bring you up to speed (should you need it) on the many issues involved.

Since NVIDIA doesn’t make technology that can deal in any realistic way with the issues relative to the lunar gravity well, nor with the problem of radiation levels beyond Earth’s atmosphere you might not be that interested in such an in-depth study.

You have told me that as a result of a filmed discussion between two opposing points of view about the Apollo EVA photos, you are then going to ‘drop in’ your technology and let the audience make up their own minds. A propos this technology you ask me to sign an NDA.

Now after two requests, you finally tell me that I cannot even know who is representing the ‘other side’ without signing this NDA. Your reluctance in this regard leads me to suppose that you are attempting to entrap me. More especially so because you are quite able to access any number of the disputed Apollo photographs, the analysis of which is online, for this exercise in demonstrating the technological prowess of NVIDIA products relative to the Apollo imagery, anomalous or otherwise.

Which was where, ostensibly, all this started. And now ends.

If you are merely using the Apollo polemic for purely commercial reasons in order to highlight your own technology, and you cared as much about the future of Earth’s space program as I do, then you would surely find another photographic study to promote your company’s abilities. Without short changing the public yet again on the subject of Apollo and the real issue: how human beings can travel in space safely.

See alsoNVIDIA: Mission Failure

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