There’s another space race to get people to the moon, but instead of the United States and Soviet Russia, it’s China and Japan that are going head-to-head. The latter is also ramping up its efforts, with a plan in place to get a team to land on the moon by 2030.
Aiming to do its part is Toyota, with the Japanese firm working with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to get its moon rover ready for a lunar mission by 2029. The company also confirmed several of the key steps it needs to make over the course of the next decade.
The vehicle, currently in concept phase, is capable of carrying two astronauts, with a driving range of roughly 9 977 kilometres by using a combination of its own fuel cell and solar power. The rover is also six-wheeled, measures six metres long, five feet wide and 3.6 metres tall. There would also be a 13 square metre habitable space, for the two-person crew to sleep in.
As for what Toyota will be developing for the rover over the coming decade, the firm has outlined the following for each fiscal year:
- 2019 – Identifying technological elements that need to be developed for driving on the surface of the moon; drawing up specifications for a prototype rover
- 2020 – Manufacturing test parts for each technological element; manufacturing a prototype rover
- 2021 – Testing and evaluating both the manufactured test parts and the prototype rover
- 2022 – Manufacture and evaluation of a 1:1 scale prototype rover; acquisition and verification testing of data on driving systems required to explore the moon’s polar regions
- 2024 – Design, manufacture, and evaluation of an engineering model of the rover; design of the actual flight model
- 2027 – Manufacture, and performance and quality testing of the flight model.
With 10 years to go, it looks like Toyota has all its requirements in order, but the most important element remains with JAXA, especially if it wants to reach its 2030 goal.
If not, at least Toyota will have a cool six-wheeled rover to show off.