Toyota is working with the Japan Space Agency to develop a vehicle to explore the lunar surface, with the ambition to help people live on the moon by 2040 and then on Mars, company officials said on Friday.
The vehicle jointly developed with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is called the Moon Cruiser, a name that pays homage to the Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility vehicle. Its launch is scheduled for the late 2020s.
Takao Sato, head of Toyota’s Moon Cruiser program, said the idea of the car is for people to eat, work, sleep and communicate with others safely inside the car, and the same can be done in outer space.
“We see space as our once-in-a-century transformational field. By going into space, we may be able to develop telecommunications and other technologies that are valuable to human life,” Sato told The Associated Press.
Gitai Japan, a joint venture with Toyota, has developed a robotic arm for the Moon Cruiser designed to perform tasks such as inspection and maintenance. Its “grab gripper” allows changing the end of the arm so it works like a different tool, scooping, lifting and sweeping.
Gitai CEO Sho Nakanose said he believes the challenges of launching into space have been largely resolved, but working in space creates huge costs and dangers for astronauts. That’s where robots come in handy, he said.
Since its founding in the 1930s, Toyota has feared losing its core business to changing times. It has ventured into housing, boats, jets and robotics. Its connected sustainable living district near Mount Fuji, dubbed “City of Weaving,” will open later this year.
The Japanese fascination with the moon has been growing.
A private Japanese company called ispace is working on a rover, landing and orbiting, and plans to land on the moon later this year. Businessman Yusaku Maezawa, who recently filmed a video of himself floating on the International Space Station, has booked a ride around the moon in Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s Starship.
Toyota engineer Noda Shinichiro said he was excited about the moon project, an extension of the automaker’s long-term mission to serve customers that could provide a valuable resource for life on Earth.
“It’s our mission to put our car on the moon,” he said. Toyotas are almost everywhere, “but it’s taking our cars to places we’ve never been.”