It was in March last year when Toyota Motor Corporation and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced their agreement to explore the development of a pressurised rover powered by fuel cell electric technology. And now, NASA has joined efforts with JAXA for a moon mission. The American space agency is set to send the first women and more men to the moon in 2024 and has also revealed that it plans to accommodate its astronauts in the rover itself, hence ditching the need for inflatable tents or underground bases.
JAXA has been designing a six-wheeled, self-driving rover by Toyota which gives a key role to Japan in the Artemis program. The RV-like vehicle will be good for two people for up to 14 days, providing a space to live and work, and also to travel about on the lunar surface.
Toyota says that such technologies are deemed necessary for Moon surface exploration by a manned vehicle. The manufacturer further explains that even with a limited amount of energy that can be transported to the Moon, the rover will be capable of cruising about 10,000 km on the lunar surface. More details on the RV rover here
NASA will however continue to also work on its own unpressurised rover as JAXA-Toyota rover will not be ready before 2029. Although the JAXA rover could be the first habitat for lunar astronauts of the Artemis mission – a date for launch has not been announced yet.
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JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata explains: “Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth.”
“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.”