It is one thing to join the rush to build the next great SUV. It’s one thing to dip a toe into the electric vehicle waters. But, a vehicle to traverse nearly around the moon at its equator? That takes some corporate guts! Toyota announced that it has the necessary courage with a partnership between the carmaker and the government of Japan that will result in a lunar rover.
What do we know so far?
Toyota came to a signed agreement with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (known as JAXA) to start the research and development process into the construction of a new moon rover. According to concept drawings released to the press, the craft will be manned, and the cabin air will be pressurized aircraft-style for the comfort of the inhabitants. Toyota intends to turn its concept vehicle into space reality. It may look like a pulp-fiction writer’s fever dream, but Toyota believes it is workable and practical for the task at hand.
How large would a thing like this have to be built?
Now, size matters when it comes to getting this kind of vehicle launched into space. Understandably, the payload of a spacecraft tasked with transporting a rover of this type to the moon and back would have severe limitations. Toyota’s think-tank hive-mind seems to think that, with the utilization of fuel cell tech, they will have the know-how to create a rover that could range of over 10,000 kilometers on the surface of the moon. That is nearly enough range to complete a lap of our lunar friend’s equatorial circumference which is 10,916 kilometers.
JAXA’s president, Hiroshi Yamakawa had this to say about the announcement:
“Manned lunar vehicles with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in fully-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface. For this, we would like to concentrate on our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies. Through our joint studies, we would like to put Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility to use. We look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover.”
The proposed lunar rover will be about six meters in length. That’s the same size as two small buses or motor coaches. The interior will be 13 cubic meters. The vehicle will comfortably house two astronauts, but four could fit in a pinch.
All of this puts Gildshire to a mind of the last time that the auto industry came to the aid of the space program. It was during the Apollo mission program. The original moon rover, built in the 1960s, rode on wire-mesh wheels.
Who designed the shoes Lunar Rover One rode around the moon?
Will the Toyota moon machine be as successful as the first rover? It will be hard to compare the two since much more will be asked of this one. But, confidence is high for both Toyota and its partners in Japan. Gildshire will be anxious to follow the developments.