Toyota has joined the space race, announcing plans to possibly build a self-driving lunar rover so advanced its passengers won't need to wear spacesuits when driving on the Moon.
It’s part of a partnership between Australia’s best-selling car brand and Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with a trip to the Moon planned sometime after 2029.
The news, announced by the company today, says Toyota’s lunar rover will allow astronauts to spend time in the pressurised cabin without wearing spacesuits and helmets - the first time that has ever been possible.
Toyota says its rover would be six metres long, 5.2m wide and 3.8m tall, and will offer 13 square metres of living space which designed to house two people comfortably, or four people in an emergency.
It remains an agreement to “consider the possibility of collaborating” at present, so it’s hardly a sealed deal. But step one of the plan between Toyota and the Japanese space agency is to study the feasibility of the fuel cell-powered rover, with Toyota targeting a total cruising range of 10,000km and an extendable wall of solar panels that rises from the side of the vehicle.
The program, which says it is “aiming to achieve sustainable prosperity for all of humankind by expanding the domain of human activity and giving rise to intellectual properties”, has the moon in its sights, with Mars the next destination on the wish list.
"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,” says Toyota’s global (or is that now intergalactic?) president, Akio Toyoda.
“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.
“I am extremely happy that, for this project, expectations have been placed on the thus-far developed durability and driving performance of Toyota vehicles and on our fuel cell environmental technologies."
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