Toyota Is Building Japan's Fuel Cell-Powered Moon Rover

JAXA and Toyota announced that they will collaborate on international space exploration | Reuters

Toyota unveiled the project with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to build a rover that can be powered by fuel cells and enable astronauts to live inside it for a certain period without wearing space suits, in what would be the first such development in the world.

Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfill, shares the same aspirations of worldwide space exploration. Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which JAXA envisions will take place in the 2030s; it aim is launching such a rover into space in 2029, said JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata. "I'm really excited", Shigeki Terashi, an executive vice president of Toyota, told a symposium held by JAXA in Tokyo.

Toyota's announcement of the agreement is somewhat vague in its language, noting that the company and JAXA now have an agreement to "consider the possibility of collaborating on worldwide space exploration".

With recent space exploration from China and developments for SpaceX in the US, the space race is again hotting up with nations striving to explore further and spend extended times in space and on the surface of the moon. "However, from now on, in responding to such matters as environmental issues of global scale, the concept of "home planet", from which all of us come, will become a very important concept", Toyota President Akio Toyoda said.

Toyota's proposed lunar rover will use zero-emission electric fuel cell technology | JAXA & Toyota Motor Corporation
Toyota's proposed lunar rover will use zero-emission electric fuel cell technology | JAXA & Toyota Motor Corporation

The automaker's fuel cells use clean power-generation methods and only emit water and have reduced amounts of harmful substances that the vehicle company is working to improve, Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said Tuesday. And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project. Instead of a family sedan, the auto manufacturer is making a pressurized self-driving rover to cruise the lunar surface.

'Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Toyota's concept of space mobility is ideal for this mission, he adds.

Under the plan, the rover, deployed from the Gateway, will travel on the moon's surface close to the south pole for five explorations between 2029 and 2034.

Toyota wants to take its vehicles to the moon. JAXA plans to collaborate with others as "Team Japan" sets their sights on the space exploration.

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