Toyota unveiled the project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to build a rover that can be powered by fuel cells and enable astronauts to live inside it for a certain period without wearing space suits, in what would be the first such development in the world.
Toyota has revealed the autonomous rover it could soon send to the moon. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.
Today, Toyota announced a somewhat vague agreement with JAXA that could result in a revolutionary lunar rover. "We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits", JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said in a prepared statement. Solar panels will also be equipped to the exterior of the rover for supplementary power needs and to top up the fuel cell when possible.
Toyota and JAXA are eyeing the rover for future manned missions to the moon where mobility is critical.
'Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth, ' explained JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment. The vehicle, which features a pressurized cabin and a suite of high-tech goodies, would give astronauts incredible freedom to explore the Moon, but it's not a sure thing quite yet.
Toyota is an off-road specialist brand that manufactures and sells more 4x4 vehicles globally than any other auto company, so it was the logical choice for the new moon rover, or should we say "Moon Cruiser". In total, four expeditions are now planned that require use of the rover to traverse the Moon's surface.
The space agency is hoping to launch a rover by 2029, with human exploration missions to follow not long after.
"At JAXA, we are pursuing global coordination and technological studies toward Japan's participation in worldwide space exploration".