Toyota Lunar Cruiser: Toyota is expanding its horizons into space with two rover projects: one focusing on a full-size manned lunar rover for the Artemis space missions, and another, a “baby” lunar rover concept designed by Toyota’s Californian CALTY design studio.
The “Toyota Lunar Exploration Mobility Works Project” was initiated in 2019 in collaboration with Japan’s space agency JAXA and NASA, and more recently, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joined the project. The goal is to launch the full-size lunar rover by 2029, potentially for NASA’s Artemis missions, marking a return to the moon for astronauts, the first since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
This lunar rover, commonly referred to as the “Lunar Cruiser,” is designed to be a pressurized vehicle, allowing astronauts to operate it without the need for space suits. It must withstand the challenging conditions on the moon, including the vacuum of its almost non-existent atmosphere and extreme temperature fluctuations between scorching daytime heat and frigid nighttime cold. Moreover, the polar regions, where potential surface or subsurface water ice could be found, are even more extreme.
Preliminary development for the Lunar Cruiser will begin next year, and the proposed dimensions are approximately 6 meters long, 5.2 meters wide, and 3.8 meters tall, providing a cabin volume of around 7 square meters to serve as a mobile living space and laboratory for astronauts.
The project will focus on four key technologies: regenerative fuel cells, off-road driving performance, automated off-road driving capabilities, and user interface. Notably, the Lunar Cruiser will use hydrogen fuel-cell technology, with hydrogen obtained from lunar ice using electrolysis to provide a sustainable energy source.
Ken Yamashita, Project Head of the Lunar Exploration Mobility Works Project at Toyota Motor Corporation, emphasized the broader relevance of this project: “In pursuing this project, we want to contribute to Japan by advancing technology and enabling people to grow. Even before the lunar landing in 2029, we hope to feed the technologies honed through the rover project back into society here on Earth.”