The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is aiming to launch a moon rover into space in 2029 – and it could be powered by Toyota fuel cells.

The two companies yesterday said they are collaborating on international space exploration, specifically a manned, pressurised rover that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies.

“Manned rovers with pressurised cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface,” said JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa. “For this, we would like to concentrate our country’s technological abilities and conduct technological studies.”

“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 realisation of a manned, pressurised rover.”

JAXA’s Vice-President Koichi Wakata said the agency is aiming at launching such a rover into space in 2029.

He continued, “Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, the moon has a complex terrain with craters, cliffs, and hills. Moreover, it is exposed to radiation and temperature conditions that are much harsher than those on Earth, as well as an ultra-high vacuum environment.”

“For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurised rover that can travel more than 10,000km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota’s ‘space mobility’ concept meets such mission requirements.”

“Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May of 2018. Thus far, our joint study, has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurised rover system, and we have identified the technological issues that must be solved.”

“Going forward, we want to utilise Toyota’s and JAXA’s technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.

“International space exploration is a challenge to conquer the unknown. To take up such a challenge, we believe it is important to gather our country’s technological capabilities and engage as ‘Team Japan’. Through our collaboration with Toyota as the starting point, we can further expand the resources of ‘Team Japan’ in the continued pursuit of international space exploration.”

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Source: Toyota

The concept for the pressurised rover being studied by JAXA and Toyota is 6m long, 5.2m wide and 3.8m in height. According to the two companies, it is about the size of two microbuses and is capable of accommodating two people, four in an emergency.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said, “The automotive industry has long done business with the concepts of ‘hometown’ and ‘home country’ largely in mind. 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.”

“Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfil, shares the same aspirations of international space exploration.”

“Furthermore, cars are used in all of Earth’s regions, and, in some regions, cars play active roles as partners for making sure that people come back alive. And I think that coming back alive is exactly what is needed in this project.”

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