Toyota Looks To Lunar Water To Power Manned Moon Vehicle

Toyota has said it is collaborating with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on a manned lunar rover it is building for Japan’s space agency, as private companies take an increasing interest in space ventures.

Mitsubishi Heavy is to provide Toyota with data and experience from running an unmanned lunar explorer on the surface of the Moon, under a project it is working on separately with a 2025 launch date.

The engineering giant said it would also provide Toyota with expertise in building life-support systems for the vehicle, after having helped construct part of the International Space Station.

In a presentation with the Japanese space agency and Mitsubishi on Friday, Toyota said it plans to deploy the “Lunar Cruiser” vehicle on the Moon in 2029.

Image credit: Toyota

Lunar Cruiser

The largest carmaker by volume is providing Mitsubishi with vehicle experience to help operate its unmanned vehicle operate under harsh lunar conditions.

It said the Lunar Cruiser – whose name is a nod to Toyota’s Land Cruiser vehicles – was intended to run on regenerative fuel cells that produce electricity from sunlight and water that could be mined from the lunar surface.

“In order to conduct long-term and stable research on the surface of the moon, we are aiming to source various items on site over a long period,” said Toyota lunar projects head Ken Yamashita at the press event.

The vehicle is intended to be a contribution to NASA’s Artemis programme, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said in press materials.

The fuel cell would create electricity from water during the Moon’s long 14-day periods of daylight, potentially allowing it to power itself from stored energy during the two-week-long nights.

Water supply

Toyota said it hopes to secure an order for the vehicle by the autumn of next year, adding that it should be able to carry two humans for 42 days and remain operational for 10 years.

The company said it does not expect to be able to supply the necessary water itself and would rely on an external arrangement or company for supply.

The same regenerative fuel cells could also be used to supply electricity in areas such as remote islands, refugee camps, and disaster-stricken places, Toyota said.

Toyota has been working with Japan’s space agency on the vehicle since 2019, at which time it said the Lunar Cruiser would measure 6 metres long by 5 metres wide by 3.8 metres in height and would have a living space of 13 square metres.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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