The Toyota Land Cruiser is the vehicle that works in almost every remote corner of the Earth. So why not on the Moon as well?
With Toyota Motor Corporation a key partner of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a future manned and pressurised rover for exploration of the rock-strewn surface of the Moon is now known as the “Lunar Cruiser’’.
Currently under research with plans to build and test a prototype, the six-wheeled vehicle will use fuel-cell electric vehicle technologies.
It’s estimated that even with the limited amount of energy that could be transported to the Moon, such a vehicle would have an exploration range of about 10,000km.
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Initial test work involves simulations to confirm power and heat dissipation performance along with the manufacture and assessment of prototype tyres, and the use of virtual reality and full-scale models to consider the layout of equipment in the cabin of the Lunar Cruiser.
The vehicle has been given the nickname ‘Lunar Cruiser’ to represent the quality, durability, and reliability expected of the lunar rover, and the ethos that Toyota has long held to for the Land Cruiser, which was for people to “come back alive.” That’s especially true for the lunar rover, given it will be traversing the harsh environment of the moon’s surface.
“Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence,’’ said JAXA president Hiroshi Yamakawa.
“At JAXA, we are pursuing international coordination and technological studies toward Japan’s participation in international space exploration.
“We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits. For this, we would like to concentrate our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies.
“Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota’s excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realisation of a manned, pressurised rover.’’
Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth and the Moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. It is also exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment.
“Manned, pressurised rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s,’’ said JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata.
“For wide-ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000km in such environments is a necessity.’’
The Lunar Cruiser is projected to measure about 6.0 metres in length, up to 5.2m in width with a height of 3.8m. The living space of 13 cubic metres would be capable of accommodating two people and four in an emergency.
World news – CA – Toyota reveals Moon-going Lunar Cruiser