Japanese automaker Toyota has been synonymous with reliability. Anywhere you go—even to the remotest of places where paved roads don’t exist—you’ll likely see Toyota vehicles transporting their owners from point to point. Even badass militant groups trust their Toyotas. It is this reputation that likely made the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency choose Toyota as a partner in designing and developing the next lunar rover. The two companies announced this agreement through a press statement issued on March 12.
The parties have proposed that the pressurized rover be given an enclosed body that’s 6m long, 5.2m wide and 3.8m tall—about the size of two microbuses. This gives the vehicle a living space of 13 cubic meters, capable of accommodating two people (or four during emergencies). This will allow astronauts to live in the vehicle for scheduled periods without the need to wear a space suit. Though the amount of energy that can be bought to the moon is limited, Toyota’s fuel-cell technologies will enable the rover to perform over 10,000km of lunar-surface cruising.
JAXA president Hiroshi Yamakawa is quoted in the statement as saying: “We are pursuing international coordination and technological studies toward Japan’s participation in international space exploration. We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits. Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence. Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface.”
Toyota president Akio Toyoda adds: “Cars are used in all of earth’s regions, and in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive. I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project. I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel-cell environmental technologies.”
With these two Japanese powerhouses collaborating and combining knowledge from their respective fields of expertise, the quest for sustainable mobility outside our planet looks promising.