The Land Cruiser model is an iconic figure in the large Toyota family, even if it's not available here. Its reputation is that it can go absolutely everywhere, or near enough. Now its name is being used as inspiration for the moniker given a new all-terrain vehicle prototype the Japanese automaker is working on.
But don't expect to see this new model on the road, or even on land. Toyota is working with the Japanese space agency on a product designed to explore the lunar surface. The company maintains it is quite serious about the project, and its documentation even makes the claim the project aims to be helping humans live on the moon by 2040, and then, eventually, on Mars.
The prototype, which we’ve met before, now has a name. The Lunar Cruiser even has a – tentative – launch date: the late 2020s.
The design is based on the idea that people can and do eat, work, sleep and communicate with each other, safely, from inside their vehicles. And if it's possible to do it here, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t be possible to do it in space, said Takao Sato, who leads the Lunar Cruiser project at Toyota.
“We see space as an area for our once-in-a-century transformation. By going to space, we may be able to develop telecommunications and other technology that will prove valuable to human life,” he told the Associated Press.
A company that works under contract for Toyota, Gitai Japan Inc. has developed a robot arm for the Lunar Cruiser, designed to perform tasks such as inspection and maintenance. Its “grapple” allows the end of the arm to be changed so that it can function like a Swiss Army knife, able to perform various tasks.
Gitai's CEO, Sho Nakanose, says that while the challenge of flying into space has been met, working in space involves significant costs and risks for astronauts. That's where robots would be useful, he adds.
Shinichiro Noda, an engineer at Toyota, said he’s excited about the lunar project, which is an extension of the automaker's longstanding mission to serve its customers. The moon could provide valuable resources for life on Earth.
"Sending our vehicles to the moon is our mission," Noda said. Toyota has products almost everywhere; "it's about taking our cars to a place we've never been.
“Sending our cars to the moon is our mission,” Noda said. While Toyota has vehicles almost everywhere, “this is about taking our cars to somewhere we have never been.”
If and when Toyota vehicles do make it to the moon, let’s not forget it won’t be the first automaker to accomplish the feat. The models used on the Apollo 15, 16 and 17 missions were developed in part by General Motors.