Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is teaming up with one of the most popular Japanese car brands, Toyota, to send a manned, pressurized rover to the moon.
According to a press release, Toyota will build a vehicle that stands on six wheels, while also being equipped with self-driving properties. Toyota and JAXA plan to use the moon rover to explore the surface of the moon. However, the plans to send a manned, pressurized rover to the moon likely won’t take place for another decade, as Japan plans to launch the rover in 2029.
Japan needs to be particularly careful in building the manned moon rover, hence it’ll take such a long time. There’s no atmosphere on the lunar surface so the satellite is exposed to the sun’s radiation to a greater degree. It’s worth mentioning that the temperatures on the moon change rapidly so JAXA and Toyota need to come up with a durable vehicle that is eligible for mobility across the lunar surface and can survive the rough conditions.
The rover concept shows it can carry two passengers, with additional space for two more in an emergency. The vehicle can travel for 6,200 miles on the surface.
When it comes to the fuel and power that the rover will use, JAXA and Toyota plan on using replaceable fuel cells connected to foldable solar panels that would charge them.
“Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA,” Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi said in a press release.
The announcement of Toyota partnering with JAXA to send a rover to the moon is just the first step in the further exploration of space, it says in the release. Japan aims to enhance and take action on the study of a manned, pressurized rover which would use different electric vehicle technologies. The concept for the manned moon rover was developed in May 2018, and has been in the works since, according to Toyota’s press release.
If everything goes properly with building the rover, Japan will be ready to send its rover to the moon in the next decade. Interestingly, this announcement shows that the space race between the countries around the world is accelerating. Recently, following a successful mission to the far side of the moon, China announced its plan to send a rover to Mars, to explore traces of potential alien life.
“Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s,” said JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata. “We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.”
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