Science/Tech

NASA Moon Mission: JAXA To One-Up US Space Agency With Toyota-Produced Moon Rover

The first real car on the Moon will be a Toyota.

The American's Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), better known as the “Moon Buggy,” was a battery-powered and four-wheeled rover used on the Moon in 1971 and 1972 by astronauts of Apollo 15, 16, and 17. These were the last three missions of the historic Apollo program that landed the first humans on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

The unprotected and unpressurized Moon Buggies without a roof or walls were built for only one astronaut.

Toyota Motor Corporation has been tasked by the Japanese government to design a lunar vehicle, more akin to a car than a Moon Buggy that will transport Japanese astronauts (and other astronauts) on long lunar trips by the year 2029.

Toyota and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) signed a three-year agreement to jointly develop a pressurized lunar rover powered by fuel-cell electric-vehicle technologies this week.

Toyota and JAXA will build a full-scale prototype of the rover by 2022. They will design the flight model and build and test an engineering model by 2024. A flight model will be built and tested by 2027. This final version will be sent to the Moon in 2029 along with Japanese astronauts.

"Over the course of the three-year joint research period, JAXA and Toyota will manufacture, test and evaluate prototypes, with the goal of developing a manned, pressurized lunar rover and exploring the surface of the moon as part of an international project," according to Toyota.

Toyota said the rover will be used for missions to explore the moon's Polar Regions, “with the aim both of investigating the possibility of using the moon's resources -- such as frozen water -- and of acquiring technologies that enable exploration of the surfaces of massive heavenly bodies."

Toyota plans to either sell or rent these rovers to the Americans that should have a Moon Base on the South Pole by 2029 and also to the Europeans.

The United States intends to land two astronauts at the South Pole by 2024 (optimistically). The European Space Agency also plans to build a "Moon Village" at the lunar South Pole. American and European astronauts will eventually have to travel long distances on the Moon and this is where the Toyota/JAXA Moon Car can be useful.

The Japanese Moon Car will also be used by human Japanese astronauts and by Japanese robot astronauts, as well.

Unlike the U.S., Europe and China that will send people to the Moon, the first “Japanese” to land on the Moon will likely be Japanese humanoid robots made of aluminum and carbon fiber. In September 2018, Japan announced the launch of its “Avatar X” program aimed at the full-scale development of an “avatar robot” named “MELTANT,” which will be deployed to the Moon and Mars.

MELTANT is a remote controlled robot distinguished by its human-like hands. It will be the first in a family of space-faring robots Japan will use to explore the Solar System without the need of endangering human Japanese astronauts.

moon-1527501_960_720 A photo of Earth's moon. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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