Lunar Rover Footage Upscaled With AI Is as Close as You’ll Get to the Experience of Driving on the Moon

Gif: YouTube, Other
Gif: YouTube, Other

The last time astronauts walked on the moon was in December of 1972, decades before high-definition video cameras were available. They relied on low-res grainy analogue film to record their adventures, which makes it hard for viewers to feel connected to what’s going on. But using modern AI techniques to upscale classic NASA footage and increase the frame rate suddenly makes it feel like you’re actually on the moon.

The YouTube channel Dutchsteammachine has recently uploaded footage from the Apollo 16 mission that looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before, unless you were an actual Apollo astronaut. Originally captured on 16-millimetre film at just 12 frames per second, footage of the lunar rover heading to Station 4, located on the rim of the moon’s Shorty Crater, was increased to a resolution of 4K and interpolated so that it now runs at 60 frames per second using the DAIN artificial intelligence platform.

Most of us immediately turn off the motion-smoothing options on a new TV, but here’s a demonstration of how, when done properly, it can dramatically change the feeling of what you’re watching. Even without immersive VR goggles, you genuinely feel like you’re riding shotgun on the lunar rover.

The footage has been synced to the original audio from this particular mission, which also serves to humanize the astronauts if you listen along. Oftentimes, when bundled up in their thick spacesuits, the Apollo astronauts seem like characters from a science fiction movie. But listening to their interactions and narration of what they’re experiencing during this mission, they feel human again, like a couple of friends out on a casual Sunday afternoon drive — even thought that drive is taking place over 383,024 km away from Earth.