Toyota And JAXA Reveals Plans To Develop Autonomous Lunar Rover

Toyota Lunar Vehicle
A Toyota logo is displayed at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva (Photo: Reuters)

Toyota Motor Corp had always been a company that had set its goals higher than its competitors. Now, the company has announced plans for an even higher target; a target that will shoot past the earth's stratosphere. Reports have revealed that the automotive manufacturer has partnered with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to develop a new six-wheeled autonomous transporter that will be sent to the moon very soon.

The news came right after Elon Musk had announced that Space X had successfully docked its Dragon spacecraft at the International Space Station. With Toyota now revving up to take its products into space, other industry leaders may follow suit with their own plans of building their own products for future space endeavors. China has already laid out plans for its own space ambitions, with an increased annual budget of US$8 billion for its space program.  

The lunar vehicle will reportedly be able to carry up to two passengers and travel a distance of 10,000 kilometers on a single charge. The vehicle that JAXA and Toyota will be building will roughly be the size of two minibusses with over 13 square meters of livable space for its occupants. The entire system will be powered by Toyota's fuel-cell technology.

Aside from moving the vehicle, Toyota's proprietary power-delivery system will be able to fully power the living quarters inside the lunar vehicle as well as other systems. Astronauts operating the vehicle can apparently take off their suits inside, thanks to integrated environmental control systems. Helping out the vehicle's power requirement will be several built-in solar panel arrays and a number of fuel cells to store power. JAXA plans to launch the vehicle ahead of a manned expedition in the next few years. The rover will be able to travel autonomously to different landing sites to meet up with arriving astronauts. JAXA also revealed that it will be exploring four different locations on the lunar surface using the same rover.

According to Toyota's executive vice president, Shigeki Terashi, the project will be extremely challenging for the company. However, the company is apparently more than willing to take on the task given how much it could help them get a foothold in the space industry. JAXA has also expressed its confidence in Toyota, stating that they do have high hopes for the success of the project. The same sentiments were shared by Koichi Wakata, an astronaut that served as the first Japanese commander on the International Space Station, who spoke at a recently held JAXA event. 

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