JAXA and Toyota’s moon rover ‘Lunar Cruiser’ is now a Transformers toy

By | April 3, 2024

Now it can be revealed that Japan’s proposal for a future lunar rover is ‘more than meets the eye’.

As first announced last June but only now available, a new scale model of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Lunar Cruiser not only faithfully reproduces, but transforms, the details of the astronaut transport developed in collaboration with Toyota it also in Optimus Prime. the leader of the Autobots.

Yes, Takara Tomy’s new toy is a cross between the real desk concept and Transformers, the ‘robots in disguise’ franchise.

“Bring the ultimate Transformers experience to your collection with the Takara Tomy Transformers Lunar Cruiser Optimus Prime action figure!” reads Habro’s Pulse website, the toy company’s direct-to-fan online store, which brought in $75 pre-orders for the Takara Tomy release. “This figure is designed to recreate the look of the Lunar Cruiser that was already showcased in 2019.”

Related: Meet ‘Lunar Cruiser’: Japan’s big moon rover for astronauts gets a nickname

close-up of a transformer toy standing on a grayish-white table

close-up of a transformer toy standing on a grayish-white table

For the past five years, JAXA and Toyota have been researching a vehicle that would enable sustainable exploration of the lunar surface. Unlike the historic Apollo moon rover and the lunar terrain vehicles, or LTVs, that NASA is set to announce for the Artemis program, the Lunar Cruiser (named after Toyota’s Land Cruiser) is pressurized, allowing it to serve as a camper. for multi-day excursions.

Toyota’s contributions to the six-wheeled JAXA rover include the fuel cell, which, in addition to a solar panel, will power the vehicle.

Takara Tomy’s model is based on the first version of the Lunar Cruiser, which had more windows, bigger tires and a wider high-gain antenna than a revised concept shown by JAXA and Toyota in October 2023.

illustration of a large white rover with six wheels on the surface of the moonillustration of a large white rover with six wheels on the surface of the moon

illustration of a large white rover with six wheels on the surface of the moon

Of course, neither version of the proposed rover could unfold into a red, blue and gray robot. (If unfamiliar, Optimus Prime, or Convoy as it is known in Japan, becomes a semi-truck in its original configuration, although it has adopted other vehicles before becoming the Lunar Cruiser.)

About twenty movements are required to fold, rotate, deploy and snap the model’s fully articulated robot form into place (or conversely, back into the rover). Optimus is approximately 18 centimeters high and is made almost entirely of ABS plastic.

The included solar panel accessory folds in half to form a shield that the Optimus Prime can hold or mount to its body. In Lunar Cruiser form, the solar panel can be mounted on the side of the vehicle (as JAXA and Toyota plan) or stored inside by lifting open the rover’s hatchback.

close-up of a six-wheeled white lunar rover transformer toy with the words close-up of a six-wheeled white lunar rover transformer toy with the words

close-up of a six-wheeled white lunar rover transformer toy with the words

RELATED STORIES:

– Toyota, Japan will launch a huge moon rover for astronauts in 2029

— Transformers movies in order: chronological and release

– NASA’s Artemis Program: Everything You Need to Know

The Transformers Lunar Cruiser Optimus Prime isn’t the only time Transformers has made the move into space exploration, both on screen and in real life.

In the original 1980s cartoon, Astrotrain was an evil Decepticon who could transform into either a train engine or a space shuttle. In one episode, he transported Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, to the moon, where they ultimately faced Optimus and the Autobots.

Later, Hasbro and Takara Tomy introduced Galaxy Shuttle, an Autobot that could transform into the winged Orion orbiter, and Sky Lynx, which transformed from a bird-like creature (or “dino-bird”) into a space shuttle complete with a NASA logo. on the side of the cargo hold.

In “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” the third film in the Michael Bay series, released in 2011, the plot revolves around a piece of technology that crashed on the moon in the 1960s and the history of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. rewrites mission. . The movie was shot partly at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and includes scenes filmed at the Vehicle Assembly Building and on Pad 39A with the space shuttle Discovery.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin had a cameo in “Dark of the Moon” where he meets Optimus Prime. Later, the actor who voiced the character, Peter Cullen, recorded several videos for NASA, including an introduction to the agency’s television channel, a video celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo program, and an overview of the James Webb Space Telescope.

Most recently, when Japan landed its first probe on the moon in January this year, it deployed the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, a compact rover designed by Takara Tomy. The Sora-Q robot changed its shape from a sphere to reveal its cameras and use its two hemispheres as wheels.

Before the historic moon landing, Takara Tomy released a toy version of Sora-Q, which, like the real rover on the moon, was also capable of transforming.

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