Toyota may already be one of the world's biggest manufacturers of Earth-bound vehicles, but the Japanese automaker is looking to expand its horizons.
The auto company is working with Japan's space agency to develop a manned lunar rover that will run on fuel cell technology and provide transport for people and cargo on the moon, Toyota Motor and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced in 2019.
Now, a new partnership between JAXA and NASA, signed July 9, could see the two government space agencies developing Toyota's pressurized lunar rover for manned moon missions by the end of this decade as part of NASA's Artemis program, Mark Kirasich, acting director of the Advanced Exploration Systems division at NASA, said in a recent interview.
"It's like a space station habitat, holding two people for 14 days, but it's on wheels," Kirasich said. "It's like an RV for the moon."
This is what the moon vehicle could eventually look like:
The planned rover would be nearly 20 feet long, 17 feet wide and about 12 feet tall, and its 459 cubic feet of living space would provide enough room for two passengers (four people would fit "in an emergency," Toyota says).
It would also have a deployable solar panel to provide an additional energy source.
It would run on a fuel cell battery system that could draw on existing technology already used in Toyota vehicles like the Toyota Mirai.
"Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and ... can provide a lot of energy," Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said in a statement.
The rover would have a "lunar-surface cruising range" of more than 6,200 miles, Toyota says.
"We aim to launch such a rover into space in 2029," JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata said.
This article was updated on July 17, 2020 to include news of the partnership between NASA and JAXA.
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