It’s a race to the Moon. Toyota is carving out a new niche for lunar rovers as it teams up with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in hopes of putting humans on the Moon.
There is a space race going on and Japan wants in on it. JAXA is working with the country’s biggest carmaker to land a vehicle on the Moon by 2029.
“It’s an extremely challenging project, and we have high hopes for Toyota’s technology,” Koichi Wakata, who served as the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station (ISS) and has flown in NASA’s Space Shuttle, said during the JAXA event.
The carmaker and the Japanese space agency will create a six-wheeled, self-driving transporter capable of carrying two humans up to 10,000 kilometers. The announcement follows the success of Elon Musk’s Crew Dragon space capsule that docked successfully at the ISS. If all goes well, Musk could be flying astronauts to the ISS this July.
Just like JAXA, NASA has been teaming up with private players to turn its space initiatives into a reality. While former President Barack Obama preferred NASA working on sending astronauts to Mars, President Donald Trump’s administration has something else in mind.
The proposed budget of the Trump administration for next year puts $600 million more to build an outpost high on the Moon. This will mark the development of landers that could bring astronauts back to the surface of the Moon.
Similarly, Toyota has started using its technology for space purposes. The Toyota-JAXA lunar rover will be like the size of two minibuses. It will be equipped with fuel cells and solar arrays that can store and generate power. Just like NASA’s landers, the rover will land ahead of the human expedition. Its livable space will measure around six meters long and have 13 square meters of space. The rover will also need to cover a distance in time to meet the astronauts because it is part of a project that requires it to be used in four other exploration areas.
As mentioned, countries have been investing in lunar exploration. Trump’s administration budget, despite the cut, fares well for NASA. The budget will award the agency as much as $21 billion. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the budget is “strong.”
On the other hand, China has as much as an $8 billion annual budget to support its space ambitions.