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Hyundai to develop a Moon rover (to launch, not because the roads are so bad down here)

Japan's Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, are already pondering what it takes to make a MoonMobile

Hyundai Motor Group announced on Thursday that it has begun building a lunar exploration rover in partnership with major Korean research institutes, and hopes to launch it to the moon in 2027.

“With the rover’s development, we are moving beyond land, sea and air mobility to expand into space mobility,” said Kim Yong-wha, head of Hyundai Motor and Kia’s R&D Planning & Coordination Center.

The vehicle's design is expected to include solar charging, autonomous driving, thermal management and radiation shielding, and the ability to carry payloads of up to 70 kg. Hyundai and subsidiary Kia are providing the advanced robotics as well as the camera and LiDAR to enable autonomous driving, plus the motor, wheels and suspension. Another subsidiary, Hyundai Rotem, will provide robot manufacturing technology.

The vehicle will also be kitted out with scientific payloads that enable digging, deeper excavating, and assist human exploration. Hyundai Motor Group said the ultimate goal is to deliver a universally applicable mobility platform that can handle a variety of payloads.

Initial tests are slated for the second half of 2024 and will see the vehicle test its capabilities on a simulated lunar surface. After launch, the 70-kg rover should land and operate near Luna's South Pole.

Korea's Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Electronics and Telecommunication Research Institute, Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology, Aerospace Research Institute, Atomic Energy Research Institute and Korea Automotive Technology Institute (KATECH) are all along for the ride. The group agreed to the project in July 2022.

Hyundai is not the only motor company venturing into space. Japanese automaker Toyota teamed up with Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a pressurized rover called the Lunar Cruiser, alongside fellow Japanese automaker Honda.

Nissan has also developed lunar rovers with the Japanese space agency.

While Japan clearly seems on top of its extraterrestrial collaborations automakers, Korea’s decision to engage in similar partnerships shows a significant step forward for the Southeast Asian country. Korea’s space program has been hindered by a 1979 Cold War-era agreement that limited the country's ability to develop and test ballistic missiles until 2020 and has had to race forward in order to catch up with its peers.

South Korea’s space program hit some major milestones in 2022, including a successful launch and its lunar orbiter.

Meanwhile, JAXA has had a few setbacks, including the postponing of its H-IIA rocket in May and the failure of its H3 rocket in March. ®

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