Toyota reveal moon rover concept for self-driving exploration
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Toyota has revealed the first look at the solar-powered autonomous rover it could soon send to the moon.
The car company teamed up with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to develop a pressurized vehicle capable of carrying astronauts on the lunar surface without the need for space suits.
It could ultimately be used to explore upwards of 10,000 kilometers of the moon’s landscape. JAXA is aiming to launch the system in 2029.
‘Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface,’ JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said on Tuesday.
A pressurized cabin will allow the rover to transport astronauts across greater distances on the surface of the moon.
Toyota’s concept vehicle, revealed in a new video and series of images today, will be designed to hold two astronauts and runs on solar power and fuel cell technology.
The Japanese space agency is planning to launch human exploration missions in the 2030s.
But first, it will need the technology to support them.
‘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 necessary.’
The pressurized vehicle proposed this week by Toyota is six meters long and 3.8 meters high – or, about the size of two microbuses, the car company says.
Though it’s intended to carry two people, Toyota says it can fit four in an emergency situation. Astronauts would be able to ride in the vehicle without their space suits on, while still having enough room for them to get in and out while wearing the bulky outfits.
Running on a fuel cell, the lunar vehicle will only emit water and surplus air.
JAXA and Toyota have been working together to study the plan since May 2018, and have now reached an agreement to move on to the next steps. The space agency is hoping to launch a rover by 2029, with human exploration missions to follow not long after.
‘Thus far, our joint study, has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurized rover system, and we have identified the technological issues that must be solved,’ Wakata said.
'Going forward, we want to utilize Toyota's and JAXA's technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.'
- Daily Mail