Toyota announced more details about its planned lunar rover on Tuesday, including a tentative launch date.
Last March, Toyota announced a partnership with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) to create a lunar rover. That partnership was signed last Tuesday and with it came more details on how Toyota plans to work with JAXA to create their first moon-based vehicle.
Making a car for the moon is a lot different than making one for Earth. Since there's no atmosphere on the moon, the rover will have to bring around its own pressurized cabin to keep its human occupants from suffocating. The lack of atmosphere also means there's no protection from the sun's deadly radiation, which means that the rover's outer shell will need to protect its passengers from cosmic rays as well.
It also needs to be pretty spacious considering it could be on the open road (or lunar surface, in this case) for weeks at a time. The rover is expected to be about 20 feet long, 17 feet wide, and 12 feet tall with 140 square feet of living space for 2 people. Cruising range is expected to be roughly 6,200 miles on hydrogen fuel cells, while power can be recharged by an enormous solar array.
We also have a rough timeline on how JAXA and Toyota will go about making their moon rover. The current agreement covers 2019 to 2021 "with the goal of developing a manned, pressurized lunar rover and exploring the surface of the moon as part of an international project."
In 2019, the two organizations are expected to draw up specifications and identify technological elements that will need to be developed for driving on the moon's surface. In 2020, manufacturing will begin on a prototype rover with testing to continue into 2021.
By 2022, a 1:1 scale prototype rover will be made for gathering more test data, while an engineering model will be created by 2024. Performance and quality testing will begin in 2027 for the actual flight model in preparation for a tentative launch date in 2029.
According to Engadget, the Toyota rover will theoretically drive out to meet human explorers by 2030. It’ll then go on to look at the moon’s polar regions to identify frozen water that could be used to fuel future exploration and maybe one day a colony.