Toyota is to work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (www.global.jaxa.jp
) on a fuel-cell lunar rover vehicle, in preparation for a manned Moon mission tentatively scheduled for 2029.
The two parties signed a formal agreement last month, setting out a three-year programme of joint research to develop prototypes of pressurised lunar rovers.
Toyota established a dedicated Lunar Exploration Mobility Works at the start of July, and it plans to recruit about 30 people by the end of 2019.
Each year will see the partnership focus on a different aspect of the prototype’s development.
It will start by identifying technical requirements and drawing up specifications; next year, the goal will be to build test parts and then assemble a rover prototype; in 2021, the partners will test both the rover parts and the rover prototype and evaluate the results.
) and JAXA expect to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2022 and a design of the actual flight model by 2024; the quality testing of the flight model is expected to start in 2027.
They hope to develop a pressurised rover that can transport astronauts over 10,000km, using its on-board fuel cells and solar recharging mechanism.
It will be designed to carry two people (but able to carry four in an emergency).
It will be about 20ft long x 17ft wide x 12.5ft tall.
The six-wheeled vehicle will have solar panels for recharging, ample communications equipment and a front winch to get itself out of difficulty (and for other potential applications).
The rover will be used to explore the Moon’s polar regions, with the aim of investigating the possibility of using its resources — such as frozen water — and acquiring technologies that will enable mankind to explore the surface of large planets.
Meanwhile, JAXA intends to continue its series of lunar missions, which will include unmanned and human missions under a broader Lunar Exploration Programme, with the eventual aim of establishing a presence for Japanese astronauts in a combined international lunar outpost programme.