Toyota is planning on going to the moon by making a lunar rover.
To be fair, the proposed lunar rover from Toyota is actually going to be a bit bigger than a minivan. Okay, a lot bigger. It’s more like two short buses welded together at just under 20 feet long, 17 feet wide and 12 feet tall. That’s a living space of 140 sq ft, for those keeping track, and Toyota says it can accommodate two lunar explorers or four people in an emergency situation.
Toyota recently signed a deal with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) "to consider the possibility of collaborating on international space exploration” and "further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study of a manned, pressurized rover that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies."
Why’d they do it? Toyota believes that collaborating on space exploration is essential to the furthering of the human species, and they want to be at the forefront of any future space race. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said in a statement that the automotive industry "shares the same aspirations of international space exploration" as actual space agencies like JAXA.
Rather than making rockets and spaceships, Toyota is focusing on more terrestrial matters. Or rather, lunar and martian terrestrial matters. Toyota’s rover will be rated for the harsh realities of space, which includes radiation, extreme temperature fluctuations, and of course, intense vacuum pressure.
It’ll also have some pretty extreme mileage. Using a hydrogen fuel cell electric powertrain, the rover will have a theoretical range of 10,000 km (6213.7 miles), which is enough to circumnavigate the entire moon. It’ll also be able to supplement its power using a large solar array, although Toyota didn’t explain just how much power they expect to receive from the big solar panels.
Toyota and JAXA have an ambitious plan to launch this thing into space by 2029. They didn’t say exactly how they’d get it to the moon, but it’ll likely be on the back of a commercial rocket from SpaceX or a similar company.
The Japanese carmaker hopes that technologies pioneered on the rover will be used on Earth to wean humanity off of fossil fuels.