Toyota is working with Japan’s space agency on a vehicle to explore the lunar surface, with ambitions to help people live on the Moon by 2040 and then go on to live on Mars, company officials said Friday.
The vehicle being developed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is called the Lunar Cruiser, named after the Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle. Its launch is scheduled for the end of 2020.
The vehicle is based on the idea that people eat, work, sleep and communicate with others safely in cars, and the same can be done in outer space, said Takao Sato, who leads the Lunar Cruiser project at Toyota Motor.
“We see space as an area for our once-in-a-century transformation. By going into space, we will be able to develop telecommunications and other technologies that will be valuable to human life,” Sato told the Associated Press.
Gitai Japan, a joint venture with Toyota, developed a robotic arm for the Lunar Cruiser, designed to carry out tasks such as inspection and maintenance. Its “claw fastener” allows the end of the arm to be changed so it can function as different tools, digging, lifting and sweeping.
Gitai Chief Executive Sho Nakanose said he felt the challenge of taking off into space was basically met, but working in space involves great costs and risks for astronauts. That’s where robots would come in handy, he said.
Since its founding in the 1930s, Toyota has been worried about losing a core business due to changing times. He ventured into housing, boats, jets and robots. Its grid-connected sustainable lodges near Mount Fuji, called Woven City, are due to open later this year.
The Japanese fascination with the Moon is growing.
A Japanese private venture called ispace is working on lunar rovers, landing and orbiting, and is scheduled for a moon landing later this year. Businessman Yusaku Maezawa, who recently took videos of himself floating around the International Space Station, booked an orbit around the moon aboard Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s starship.
Toyota engineer Shinichiro Noda said he was excited about the lunar project, an extension of the automaker’s long-standing mission to serve customers and the moon could provide valuable resources for life on Earth.
“Sending our cars to the moon is our mission,” he said. Toyota has vehicles almost everywhere, “But it’s about taking our cars somewhere we’ve never been.”