Toyota has reached an agreement with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to collaborate on various projects related to international space exploration.
The first step in this agreement, Toyota says, is to accelerate the ongoing joint study of a manned, pressurized rover that is powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. The automaker is aiming for its rover to have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km, enabled by the energy-dense fuel cell, which would help humans to further explore the surface of the moon and perhaps even Mars eventually as well.
"Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface," JAXA president Hiroshi Yamakawa said in a statement. "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 realization of a manned, pressurized rover."
The concept proposal for the hydrogen lunar rover, pictured here, is about 6 metres long, 5.2 metres wide, and 3.8 metres tall. It also has a "living space" of 13 cubic metres and room for two passengers on board – although it can accommodate up to four in the event of an emergency.
Toyota and JAXA will continue their work on the lunar rover until 2021, with plans to manufacture a full-scale prototype in 2022 if everything goes to plan. Research will continue until 2027, when the company plans to manufacture the rover and complete performance and quality control tests. The lunar mission itself is slated for 2029 or later.