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article imageJapan's space agency teams up with Toyota to develop moon rover

By Karen Graham     Mar 18, 2019 in Technology
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced Tuesday (March 12) that it is working with vehicle manufacturer Toyota to develop the moon rover of the future – a massive vehicle powered by fuel cells.
The agreement allows JAXA and Toyota to further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study of a manned, pressurized rover that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies. Such a form of mobility is necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface.
The thought of a car company developing a lunar vehicle might seem unusual, but General Motors played a large role in developing the first—and so far the only—vehicle to transport astronauts across the lunar surface. While GM's work was focused on the American space mission, JAXA and Toyota are thinking on a global scale.
"The automotive industry has long done business with the concepts of ‘hometown’ and ‘home country’ largely in mind,” said Toyota President, Akio Toyoda, in the joint announcement. “However, from now on, in responding to such matters as environmental issues of global scale, the concept of ‘home planet,’ from which all of us come, will become a very important concept.”
Lunar rover with colar array deployed
Lunar rover with colar array deployed
Toyota Motors
The rover will be a behemoth
The huge pressurized lunar rover will be crewed by two astronauts but capable of carrying four in the event of an emergency. Based on the current concept designs, the vehicle will be at least 20 feet (6 meters) long, have six wheels, and measure 17 feet (5.2 meters) wide and 12.4 feet (3.8 meters) high. It will also have about 140 square feet (13 square meters) of living space, JAXA officials said, reports Space.com.
There are two concept images, both of them showing a beautifully sleek vehicle with a nose covered in angled windows. The images show the vehicle has headlights, running lights and even brake lights. One image also shows a roll-out solar display for generating solar power.
NASA's unpressurized lunar rovers were tricycles in comparison to the Toyota concept vehicle. They could seat two astronauts in space suits and had four wheels and were 10.1 feet long (3.1 meters) and 7.5 feet wide (2.3 meters), with a maximum height of 3.7 feet (1.14 meters). However - they did serve their purpose.
Untitled
Toyota Motors
JAXA officials admit that building a rugged sports utility vehicle (SUV) for lunar traveling does have its challenges. "Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills," astronaut Koichi Wakata, JAXA's vice president, said in the statement.
"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."
While JAXA has said it is committed to participating in NASA's plans to return to the moon, JAXA officials did not specifically say that the Toyota moon rover project will be part of its contribution to a future human moon mission effort.
More about JAXA, Toyota, lunar rover, fuel cell technology, Technology
 
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