Toyota Is Building A Lunar Rover
A motorhome for astronauts… all in the name of science!
Last Friday marked 50 years since Apollo 11 took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. This extraordinary event reframed what we thought possible and transformed our understanding and perception of our place in the universe. But then we lost interest in all that space exploration malarkey and our eyes dropped from the sky… dammit, I can’t beat this Candy Crush level! Toyota on the other hand wants to regain our exploratory compass and is doing so in collaboration with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The plan is to build a moon buggy; not a pushchair for aliens, but a full-fledged lunar rover, quite unlike any other.
Think of it as a pressurised motorhome for astronauts. It’s twice the width, twice the length and many times taller than the buggy used on the Apollo 15 mission. It’s large enough to accommodate up to four astronauts and boasts a range of more than 10,000km—which is perfect really, considering that’s about the circumference of the moon. It’s powered by fuel-cell electric drivetrain tech, aided by a huge retractable solar panel, and rolls around on enormous air-less tyres. And of course, it’s filled with the latest tech and communications equipment.
A prototype is due for 2021 and the final product could be on its way to the moon by 2029. Ultimately, JAXA would like to use it to explore and study the moon’s polar regions where ice and other natural resources lie near the surface. Hopefully they can determine whether or not the ice (water) is accessible as a resource for future expeditions. At Men & Motors we’re particularly interested to see how any advances made in battery-electric and fuel cell technology will trickle down to earthly vehicles.
Vice President of Toyota, Shigeki Terashi, said: “Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles… Our joint studies with JAXA are a part of this effort. Being allowed to be a member of ‘Team Japan’, we would like to take up the challenge of space.”