Neil, Buzz, and Mike probably did not see that coming...

Last July 16, the US – and mankind as a whole – celebrated 50 years of the first human landing on the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were the heroes of this modern days epic accomplishment. Toyota chose the exact same day to announce it also plans to land on the Moon in ten years. With a Mirai brother. Sort of.

Both Toyota and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced a joint research agreement that aims to put an FCEV lunar rover on the moon in 2029. The new vehicle even has some tentative specs already in place beside the fact that it will be powered by hydrogen and electricity.

The Toyota Lunar Rover will be 6 meters (236.2 inches) long, 5.2 m (204.7 in) wide, and 3.8 m (149.6 in) tall.

The preliminary rendering shows a three-axle, six-wheeled vehicle, but Toyota’s Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi says there are so many technical requirements to meet it will probably look very different when it is finally ready.

Toyota Aims To Put A Mirai Brother On The Moon In 2029

JAXA and Toyota want it to offer a 13 m³ (459.09 ft³) of living space. And to be able to carry two astronauts around lunar soil. Four of them in case of an emergency.

But there is more. Toyota’s lunar rover will need to be able to run at least 10,000 km (6,213.7 mi). Terashi said the plan is for the rover to run 1,000 km (621,37 mi) on each hydrogen supply.

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The new rover is part of a huge plan to explore the Moon in five different regions. So it will also need to have autonomous abilities in order to drive from one region to another on its own. 

The rover, still unnamed, will use Toyota’s next generation of fuel cells, but also batteries, solar panels, and power regeneration devices in order to be able to endure the two weeks of light and two weeks of darkness the moon endures in a complete rotation around its own axle.

Toyota Aims To Put A Mirai Brother On The Moon In 2029

Toyota claims fuel cells are much lighter than lithium-ion batteries, with ⅕ of their mass for the equivalent energy. Lightness would be just one part of their benefits in a mission to the moon.

The Japanese carmaker believes the water generated by the reaction between the stored oxygen and hydrogen can also be used by the astronauts in cooling processes or even for drinking.

Toyota Aims To Put A Mirai Brother On The Moon In 2029

If everything runs on schedule, missions will start in 2029 and extend until 2034. The Moon will become a sort of base, working together with the Gateway, another space station, such as ISS, but placed further in order to allow the long planed human space travel to Mars.

We just hope to have brave men such as Neil, Buzz, and Mike to help us celebrate new milestones in space exploration. Will Toyota help us do that with a lunar rover for the 60 years of Apollo 11’s mission? Share your thoughts with us. Even if you are not very fond of fuel cells...

Gallery: Toyota Aims To Put A Mirai Brother On The Moon In 2029

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Tokyo, Japan, March 12, 2019―The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota) announce their agreement today to consider the possibility of collaborating on international space exploration. As a first step, JAXA and Toyota have reached agreement to further cooperate on and accelerate their ongoing joint study*1 of a manned, pressurized rover*2 that employs fuel cell electric vehicle technologies. Such a form of mobility is deemed necessary for human exploration activities on the lunar surface. Even with the limited amount of energy that can be transported to the moon, the pressurized rover would have a total lunar-surface cruising range of more than 10,000 km.

International space exploration, aiming to achieve sustainable prosperity for all of humankind by expanding the domain of human activity and giving rise to intellectual properties, has its sights set on the moon and Mars. To achieve the goals of such exploration, coordination between robotic missions, such as the recent successful touchdown by the asteroid probe Hayabusa2 on the asteroid Ryugu, and human missions, such as those involving humans using pressurized rovers to conduct activities on the moon, is essential. When it comes to challenging missions such as lunar or Martian exploration, various countries are competing in advancing their technologies, while also advancing their cooperative efforts.

JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said today about the agreement between JAXA and Toyota: "At JAXA, we are pursuing international coordination and technological studies toward Japan's participation in international space exploration. We aim to contribute through leading Japanese technologies that can potentially generate spin-off benefits. Having Toyota join us in the challenge of international space exploration greatly strengthens our confidence. Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface. For this, we would like to concentrate our country's technological abilities and conduct technological studies. Through our joint studies going forward, we would like to put to use Toyota's excellent technological abilities related to mobility, and we look forward to the acceleration of our technological studies for the realization of a manned, pressurized rover."

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said: "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. Going beyond the frameworks of countries or regions, I believe that our industry, which is constantly thinking about the role it should fulfill, shares the same aspirations of international space exploration. Furthermore, 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."

Also, at a symposium held today in Tokyo, JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata and Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi held a talk session, excerpts from which are shown below.

Comments by JAXA Vice President Koichi Wakata

"At JAXA, we are studying various scenarios as well as technologies that will be applied to specific space missions. Manned, pressurized rovers will be an important element supporting human lunar exploration, which we envision will take place in the 2030s. We aim at launching such a rover into space in 2029.

"Lunar gravity is one-sixth of that on Earth. Meanwhile, 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. For wide ranging human exploration of the moon, a pressurized rover that can travel more than 10,000 km in such environments is a necessity. Toyota's 'space mobility' concept meets such mission requirements. Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May of 2018.

"Thus far, our joint study, has examined a preliminary concept for a manned, pressurized rover system, and we have identified the technological issues that must be solved. Going forward, we want to utilize Toyota's and JAXA's technologies, human resources, and knowledge, among others, to continuously solve those issues.

"International space exploration is a challenge to conquer the unknown. To take up such a challenge, we believe it is important to gather our country's technological capabilities and engage as 'Team Japan'. Through our collaboration with Toyota as the starting point, we can further expand the resources of 'Team Japan' in the continued pursuit of international space exploration."

Comment by Toyota Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi

"As an engineer, there is no greater joy than being able to participate in such a lunar project by way of Toyota's car-making and, furthermore, by way of our technologies related to electrified vehicles, such as fuel cell batteries, and our technologies related to autonomous and automated driving. I am filled with great excitement.

"Fuel cells, which use clean power-generation methods, emit only water, and, because of their high energy density, they can provide a lot of energy, making them especially suited for the project being discussed with JAXA.

"Toyota believes that achieving a sustainable mobility society on Earth will involve the coexistence and widespread use of electrified vehicles, such as hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. For electrification, fuel cell batteries represent an indispensable technology.

"Fuel cell electric vehicles have the ability to emit reduced amounts of harmful substances, such as particulate matter, that are found in the air they take in. As such, they are characterized by having so-called 'minus emissions'*3. We want to further improve on this characteristic.

"Contributing to Earth's environment cannot be achieved without the widespread use of electrified vehicles. As a full-line manufacturer of electrified vehicles, and aiming for the widespread use of such vehicles, Toyota―going beyond only making complete vehicles―wants to provide electrification to its customers in various forms, such as through systems and technologies.

"Our joint studies with JAXA are a part of this effort. Being allowed to be a member of 'Team Japan', we would like to take up the challenge of space."

Concept proposal for the pressurized rover being studied by JAXA and Toyota

  • Length: 6.0 m; width: 5.2 m; height: 3.8 m (about the size of two microbuses)
  • Living space: 13m3
  • Capable of accommodating two people (four people in an emergency)