Toyota’s Moon Truck Rover and Asset Management
Some of you, like myself, remember July 20, 1969 when everyone was in front of their TVs watching man take his first steps on the moon. We watched in awe as the American flag was soon planted on the moon’s surface. Imagine, travelling 240,000 miles, with just a single computer weighing 70 lbs, and with far less technology than today’s cell phones. Science Fiction had become Science Fact!
Toyota Commercial Vehicles are about to go even further in our exploration of the moon. The company announced that it’s working on building a manned pressurized rover that will launch in 2029, with lunar exploration occurring during the 2030s. The complexity of the engineering challenges this project requires are almost unfathomable. The radiation and temperature conditions are ten times harsher than on our own planet. The gravity is just one-sixth of that on Earth. The rover will have to work under an extreme ultra-high vacuum environment. The plans are for runs of up to 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) across very slippery conditions that will require individual traction on each wheel. Additionally, this vehicle is being designed as with manned control, which implies a pressurized system for the occupants at all times. Early details show the capacity for two or four people within a 150-sq/ ft. cab and a body about 20 ft. long. The moving platform will be powered by fuel cell technology.
Toyota is working with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on this project. JAXA has over 75 satellites circling our planet and is one of the leading Aerospace organizations in the world. Their missions encompass human space activities, space transportation, as well as spacecraft. The 2030s, when exploration of the moon’s natural resources is projected to start, are not that far off.
Considering how fast technology is moving, it’s noteworthy how disproportionate the use of today’s technology is from one transportation sector to another. Our current truck power-trains are not yet completely reliable, even as monetary incentives are provided to acquire electric trucks that don’t yet exist. Almost 90 percent of the commercial fleets worldwide (trucks, airplanes, locomotives) are generating huge amounts of harmful soot. We have steam, electric, pneumatic, internal combustion, magnetic and fuel cell motors options, and we can’t agree on which one is best for our future.
But it is certain that in a matter of a generation or two we will be planting the American flag on Mars. How we adapt to all this will be the challenge for the next generation of transportation technology. Goods will still have to be moved from place to place, here or on the moon. As much as I’m excited about this incredible vehicle, I’m hopeful that manufacturers will use the technology we have to improve not just fuel efficiency, but the reliability of trucks now being manufactured. If a truck on the moon can run non-stop for 10,000 km, then there is no reason why a truck on earth cannot run without a “check engine light” coming on for at least 500,000 miles. As of today we’ve got 10 years to build the trouble free million-mile truck. Let’s not use the excuse that there are no EPA regulations covering the moon and that the rover does not require a DPF!