Toyota taps Lunar Cruiser as name for upcoming moon rover

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TOKYO — If Land Cruiser is the name of Toyota’s toughest all-terrain vehicle, it is only natural the company should call its toughest extraterrestrial model the Lunar Cruiser.

And that is the moniker Japan’s biggest automaker has tapped for its planned moon rover — a six-wheeled, pressurized, fuel cell-powered behemoth slated for liftoff in 2029.

In announcing the choice in a Friday news release, Toyota said it wanted the name to hark back to the Land Cruiser SUV, one of the Toyota brand’s most storied nameplates.

“The Land Cruiser is built with the mindset, quality, durability and reliability to ‘bring you home alive,’ a quality that the company would like to carry over to the manned lunar rover, which must run in an even more severe environment and set of circumstances,” Toyota said.

Toyota is proposing its rover for a future international moon mission, led by NASA and joined by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and other groups. Toyota floated the idea of building the mission’s lunar rover last year.

The Lunar Cruiser would be the size of two microbuses and powered by a hydrogen fuel cell system. Retractable solar panels would help generate electricity for onboard use.

Unlike the moon buggies launched under the Apollo missions of the 1970s, Toyota’s rover will have a fully enclosed cabin. It is designed for two astronauts but can accommodate four in an emergency.

Toyota hopes to confirm power and heat radiation performance of its rover this year, as well as its layout, using full-size mock-ups and virtual reality. Toyota is coordinating with Japan’s space agency on the project as one of Japan’s contributions to the international mission.

Toyota’s specifications call for a moon rover capable of traveling 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) on full tanks of oxygen and hydrogen for a total lifetime of 10,000 kilometers (6,210 miles) of travel over 42 days. The Land Cruiser, introduced in 1951, has a range of about 369 miles.

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Saurabh Shukla

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