Toyota Unveils Lunar Rover Concept as Japan Plans Moon Mission

first_imgStay on target Toyota is collaborating with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a planned mission to land an astronaut on the moon, with the auto giant expected to develop a fuel cell-powered lunar rover, officials announced Tuesday.It will be Toyota’s first full-fledged entry into space exploration, after the carmaker co-developed a small robot that was sent to the International Space Station in 2013. That robot, Kirobo, became the first robot to speak in outer space.The planned rover, which was unveiled at an event in Toyko, will be about the size of two microbuses, making it large enough to house two astronauts for several weeks at a time. It will capable of driving for more than 6,200 miles (10,000 km) across the lunar surface.It’s expected to be used on manned missions as early as 2029, Nikkei Asian Review reported.JAXA is planning manned missions to explore five different locations near the moon’s southern pole between 2029 and 2034.For each mission, the astronauts will be based in the rover for 42 days, during which time they will be able to leave the vehicle to explore their surroundings, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Once they depart, the vehicle will drive thousands of kilometers to the next location to wait for the next mission.Concept for the pressurized lunar rover being studied by JAXA and Toyota. (Photo Credit: Toyota)“This is going to be a very tough challenge for Toyota,” said Shigeki Terashi, Toyota chief technology officer. “There are no paved roads on the moon.”The rover is expected to be a self-driving vehicle able to withstand the moon’s harsh environment, including high radiation and temperatures that vary by 300 C between the day and the night.Toyota has already tested its SUVs on rough terrain on five continents. “The moon will be our sixth continent to conquer,” Terashi said.Experts say it makes sense that automakers now see commercial potential in the final frontier.Masayasu Ishida, a consultant at A.T. Kearney, told Nikkei Asian Review space agencies’ partnerships with companies like Toyota make sense because they have technology that JAXA and traditional rocket launch companies do not have, such as robotics and autonomous driving.The vehicle will have enclosed body equipped with functions and space that enable astronauts to live in the vehicle, and will be capable of possible sustainable mobility on the surface of a moon via astronaut operation, remote operation, or autonomous driving. (Photo Credit: Toyota)“Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said in a statement. “Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface. For this, we would like to concentrate our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies. Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”The announcement comes during a time of renewed global interest in missions to the moon.In January, China’s Chang’e-4 probe successfully landed on the far side of the moon, and in February, SpaceX launched Israel’s Beresheet robotic lunar lander, which is expected to land on the moon on April 11.More on Wants to Start Mining the Surface of the Moon by 2025Neptune’s Tiny Moon Hippocamp May Be Debris From Larger SatelliteEarth’s Oldest Rock Found Amidst Apollo 14 Moon Sample NASA Says 2 Asteroids Will Safely Fly By Earth This WeekendHubble Captures Saturn’s ‘Phonograph Record’ Ring System last_img