By on August 28, 2020

If you hadn’t heard, Toyota has pitched a lunar rover to serve as a vehicle for an upcoming international moon mission led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and supported by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) — among other extra-planetary organizations. Conceptualized last year, the six-wheeled dune hopper offers more creature comforts than the original Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) produced by Boeing and General Motors’ Defense Research Laboratories decades ago.

But it needed a name, and Toyota figured it might as well find something fitting that also helped it market products here on Earth (assuming it’s chosen for the mission). Fortunately, the brand’s history includes a vehicle that’s known to be so reliable and adept at traversing unforgiving terrain that it’s become internationally famous for it: the Land Cruiser.

Announcing its decision Friday, Toyota said it wants the moon buggy to be named “Lunar Cruiser.” The automaker didn’t omit mentioning the obvious connection to its own SUV.

From Toyota:

The nickname Lunar Cruiser was chosen because of the familiar feeling it offers the people involved in the development and manufacture of the vehicle prototype as part of the joint research project as well as the familiarity it will provide the general public. The name, which references the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV, was decided upon based on the quality, durability, and reliability expected of the pressurized lunar rover, and the concept that Toyota has long held to for the Land Cruiser, which was for people to “come back alive,” especially true for the lunar rover as it will be traversing the harsh environment of the moon’s surface.

JAXA has already signed off on the name and attached itself to the press release. The pair agreed to work on a manned rover in March of 2019. They are currently developing the individual components necessary to make the vehicle work ahead of running virtual simulations that will foreshadow the prototype — which will be tested to see how much physical abuse it can endure and how the layout of the cabin needs to be changed. This year’s goals focus on heat management (important, since the moon’s surface fluctuates between 127 C and minus 173 C) and building a full-scale model.

The cockpit will be pressurized, with the unit dependent on a hydrogen fuel cell system and assisted by an extendable solar panel array, rather than the non-rechargeable, silver-zinc potassium hydroxide batteries of the first LRVs. Lunar Cruiser will also have room for two astronauts, with the ability to accommodate two more if the situation calls for it. Toyota is targeting 1,000 kilometers of range when the rover is filled to the brim with hydrogen, and wants to make it so the craft can endure well over a month of hard work before succumbing to the extreme temperatures and rampant dust.

“Manned rovers with pressurized cabins are an element that will play an important role in full-fledged exploration and use of the lunar surface,” JAXA President Hiroshi Yamakawa said when the project was first announced. “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.”

The big boy (estimated to be at least 20 feet in length) is scheduled to launch in 2029 if everything goes according to plan. The feat requires the full cooperation of “Team Japan,” which includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and is supposed to incorporate more partners as things progress.

[Images: JAXA; Toyota]


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19 Comments on “Space-age Marketing: Toyota Names Moon Rover After Land Cruiser...”

  • avatar

    Last night Trump said we’re going to put the first woman on the moon. If that’s true, I suppose she’ll need a minivan.

    • 0 avatar

      @Cicero – that might be cheaper for him than the terms of a pre-nup!

    • 0 avatar

      Trump says a lot of stuff, and a lot of it is useless braggadocio, false, and/or poorly considered.

      We’ve tried it Trump’s way for nearly four years, and look at where we are now. Over a hundred thousand dead Americans (due to the worst-managed pandemic response in the developed world), an economy in tatters, trade wars (bad for business), global alliances deteriorated to the point where Trump was laughed out of the UN. I could go on. [Facepalm]

      Trump saying he’s going to send people to the moon is not credible.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if Trump’s statement were true, if she were a car enthusiast, might she prefer something else?

      One of my friends (mother of three) prefers her Dodge Charger SRT over a minivan. [shrug]

      I like minivans much better than most women and most men. I’d jump at a chance to drive this “minivan”. [shrug]

      The sexism in your statement is being gently called out. I want female car enthusiasts, including my friend with the SRT, to feel welcome here.

  • avatar

    Why is the front end shaped like that, if there is no air resistance?

    (And – needs *way* more grille, Toyota. /S)

  • avatar

    Can it survive 10 years on amoon or Mars like MERs? BTW I saw Space Exploration Vehicle in Space Vehicle Mockup Center in Johnson Space Center in Houston which looked more credible than Lunar Cruiser.

  • avatar

    Unless the Lunar Cruiser is intended to allow astronauts to work inside of it without needing to wear a spacesuit, having a pressurised cabin seems somewhat pointless.

    The need for testing vehicle technologies in the environments they’re intended to be used in makes perfect sense, and if that’s the intent behind this one, that’s fine. But there doesn’t seem to be any other clear raison d’être for it.

    This is definitely a huge step up from the Lunar Rover – but unless there’s something we don’t know about yet, the Cruiser seems to be a case of having to lift more payload into space which then needs to make it to the moon with no clear goal in mind for it. And since space agencies hate having their craft haul more weight off the pad than is absolutely necessary, this leaves the question open as to whether or not it’ll actually ever see lunar dirt.

  • avatar

    Would they sell me one of these as overland RV?

    For a price I can afford?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Once again, Toyota is pushing FCVs instead of BEVs. :) But I guess it is a useful way to produce water for a month-long journey.

    The Hyundai version will have a much longer warranty, however.

  • avatar

    I imagine they’ll offer 500 replicas for the general public in the U.S.?

  • avatar

    Does anyone else have a flashback to that great late-1970s British series “Space 1999” with this lunar rover?

    Set on the moon, with Martin Landau and real-life spouse Barbara Bain as leads, it’s a classic (DVDs are available) and was state-of-the-art for special effects and this rover looks just like those in the series.

    Some closet “Space 1999” fans at Toyota?….

  • avatar

    Cool vehicle, but does it really need side markers/turn signals and tail/brake lights? Is Toyota expecting a lot of traffic on the moon? LOL!

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