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Moon remains the favourite space exploration jaunt for the space agencies worldwide. Last year, Japan’s space agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Toyota announced a collaboration. The Japanese automaker is developing a hydrogen-powered Lunar Rover for a 2029 scheduled exploration of the Moon. Toyota is competing with Elon Musk’s Tesla who are planning to send a manned mission to the moon. The work started on the planned Moon Rover which remained unnamed till Friday, 28th August. JAXA and Toyota decided to name the Moon Rover as Lunar Cruiser, which draws inspiration from the highly popular, muscular and Toyota's flagship SUV - the Land Cruiser.
Lunar Cruiser is the first in the many initiatives planned for the upcoming decade as the space exploration race heats up. The moon exploration vehicle will come with hydrogen fuel cells and option for solar energy too. Dimension wise, the Lunar Cruiser stands at 20 by 17 ft with six wheels. The rover can comfortably accommodate two space travellers in a sealed and pressurized cabin. Since the 2019 announcement, Rover is being developed keeping in mind the moon’s atmosphere. Simulation is a big help for the engineers in finding out the best powertrain heat management in the Moon’s airless environment. The moon surface is coarse filled with craters thus imperative for the manufacturer to build sturdy tires for the rover.
The Lunar Cruiser can travel up to 10,000 km on a single tank making it suitable to travel large distances on the Moon. Testing is scheduled to begin from 2021 with the construction of the full-scale prototype in 2022. By 2024, the automaker would actually build an engineering model which will provide immense help in the development of the real flight model. The final flight-ready model will be assembled by 2027 if we go by the timeline disclosed by JAXA. As per the JAXA VP Koichi Wakata statement to the media outlets, the hydrogen-powered lunar rover is scheduled to travel the moon’s rugged landscape by 2029. Neil Armstrong made the iconic statement “ That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” when he landed on the moon. Same could be said when Toyota's vision of a manned rover comes to fruition. This could pave the way for missions to Mars too. As Tesla and Toyota compete in the space exploration race, humans could benefit from two engineering companies' intense competition.