Toyota & Japan Space Agency to Research, Build Lunar Rover

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Fifty years ago, man took his first steps on our moon. From July 20, 1969 to December 1972, there were twelve people who got to walk on the moon. The U.S., China and the U.S.S.R. have all sent spacecraft to the moon’s surface since ’69, but no one has been to the moon in nearly 47 years.

After so much time, humans are once again preparing to land on the moon. Toyota announced plans to work with JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, to research and build a lunar rover in March. Well, this month, the plans became official. Toyota is going to the moon in 2029!

Toyota and JAXA announced a joint three-year contract to research together and launch a manned, pressurized lunar rover that will use electric vehicle fuel cell technology. The research period started June 20, 2019, and will last until the end of fiscal year 2021. Once the research is done, Toyota and JAXA will build and test the rover from 2022 to its tentative launch in 2029.

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The Toyota/JAXA lunar rover will have six wheels and be the size of two minibusses. It will have 13 square meters (about 149 square feet) of habitable space for two people, or four in an emergency. Since it’s pressurized, astronauts would be able to remove their suits while on board. 

Toyota and JAXA have been studying and discussing the possibility of a rover since May 2018. When it was announced in March of this year, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata said the agency will be working with Toyota to create a rover to explore the moon’s surface.

“Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth,” he said. “Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. 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. For wide-ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept meets such mission requirements.”

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