Neil, Buzz, and Mike probably did not see that coming…
Last July 16, the US – and mankind as a whole – celebrated 50 years of the first human landing on the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were the heroes of this modern days epic accomplishment. Toyota chose the exact same day to announce it also plans to land on the Moon in ten years. With a Mirai brother. Sort of.
Both Toyota and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced a joint research agreement that aims to put an FCEV lunar rover on the moon in 2029. The new vehicle even has some tentative specs already in place beside the fact that it will be powered by hydrogen and electricity.
The Toyota Lunar Rover will be 6 meters (236.2 inches) long, 5.2 m (204.7 in) wide, and 3.8 m (149.6 in) tall.
The preliminary rendering shows a three-axle, six-wheeled vehicle, but Toyota’s Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi says there are so many technical requirements to meet it will probably look very different when it is finally ready.
JAXA and Toyota want it to offer a 13 m³ (459.09 ft³) of living space. And to be able to carry two astronauts around lunar soil. Four of them in case of an emergency.
But there is more. Toyota’s lunar rover will need to be able to run at least 10,000 km (6,213.7 mi). Terashi said the plan is for the rover to run 1,000 km (621,37 mi) on each hydrogen supply.
The new rover is part of a huge plan to explore the Moon in five different regions. So it will also need to have autonomous abilities in order to drive from one region to another on its own.
The rover, still unnamed, will use Toyota’s next generation of fuel cells, but also batteries, solar panels, and power regeneration devices in order to be able to endure the two weeks of light and two weeks of darkness the moon endures in a complete rotation around its own axle.
Toyota claims fuel cells are much lighter than lithium-ion batteries, with ⅕ of their mass for the equivalent energy. Lightness would be just one part of their benefits in a mission to the moon.
The Japanese carmaker believes the water generated by the reaction between the stored oxygen and hydrogen can also be used by the astronauts in cooling processes or even for drinking.
If everything runs on schedule, missions will start in 2029 and extend until 2034. The Moon will become a sort of base, working together with the Gateway, another space station, such as ISS, but placed further in order to allow the long planed human space travel to Mars.
We just hope to have brave men such as Neil, Buzz, and Mike to help us celebrate new milestones in space exploration. Will Toyota help us do that with a lunar rover for the 60 years of Apollo 11’s mission? Share your thoughts with us. Even if you are not very fond of fuel cells…
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